Liquor at your door, in the time it takes to order a pizza? That's what a new Hartford-area delivery service is promising. Ultra, which originally began in New York City and has since expanded to Chicago, New Jersey and Maryland, launches in greater Hartford this week.
Ultra is now delivering alcoholic beverages to homes and businesses within select ZIP codes in Hartford, Farmington and West Hartford, in about an hour's time. The company works with local liquor stores, which will process and deliver the alcohol once customers place online orders.
Founder Aniket Shah, who launched Ultra in May, says it's the first company in Hartford area to offer one-hour delivery service for alcohol.
"Hartford is the insurance capital of the world," he said by phone Monday. "This area is technologically forward. They have the resources and interest in using new technology for different things…[there's] no reason [Hartford] shouldn't be a good place to try it out."
Similar to restaurant delivery services like GrubHub (and locally, WaiterWheels,) customers can order bottles of wine, beer, liquor and non-alcoholic drinks and mixers to be delivered to their doorstep. Ultra works in partnership with a Hartford-area store – Shah declined to name which, citing proprietary information – to fulfill and deliver the orders. The order details go directly to the store, which confirms the purchase and provides an estimated delivery time to the consumer. Stores will deliver within specified time frames, in accordance with legal hours of off-premises liquor sales.
Delivery drivers are responsible for checking IDs, Shah said.
"We don't want underage people to drink using this service. Whoever is accepting the liquor has to show ID." If the customer cannot produce valid ID, the transaction is canceled and the driver takes the order back, he said.
Stores determine a minimum purchase amount for delivery – most minimums are between $25 and $40 for this region, Shah said. Stores also set the pricing of the alcoholic items, but Shah says the beer, wine and spirits won't be more expensive than they would be if purchased directly at the location. Ultra delivery is free at this time, but gratuity for drivers is encouraged.
The Hartford region is one of 15 cities where Ultra plans to expand in 2014 – Ultra is actively looking for partner stores in New Haven, Stamford and other Connecticut cities, and Avon is a "strong possibility," Shah said. "[Connecticut] will be a very important market for us."
Ultra ran afoul of liquor laws in Washington, D.C. in June – it was ordered to cease and desist for selling alcoholic beverages without a license, according to the Washington Post. Though Ultra had partnered with a licensed purveyor, the D.C. Alcohol Control Board found that Ultra was "soliciting orders for sale" and processing customer payments. But in August, the board ruled that liquor-delivery companies can act as middlemen and provide customers with websites and smartphone applications used to order beer, wine or liquor, according to the Washington Times. The online companies just cannot sell or deliver the alcohol themselves in Washington.
In an email Tuesday afternoon, Claudette Carveth, spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, said Ultra does not require a permit from the agency since the transaction to purchase alcoholic beverages takes place between the customer and licensed retailer. The department's liquor control division is the regulatory agency for any business that sells or serves alcohol.
Ultra is online at www.orderultra.com.Copyright © 2015, CT Now