Oh, the beer run. That time-honored tradition of hopping in the car and heading to the local liquor establishment to replenish your supply of alcohol. Could it soon be a thing of the past?
It just might, at least that is what U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is hoping for. He recently pitched the idea of allowing the U.S. Postal Service to deliver beer, wine and spirits to your doorstep. Donahoe claims the deliveries could raise as much as $50 million a year for the cash-strapped agency.
"There's a lot of money to be made in shipping beer, wine and spirits," Donahoe told the Associated Press. "We'd like to be in that business."
Sure, the Postal Service would love to be in that business, especially since the agency reported on Friday a net loss for the third quarter of $740 million. But vinters and brewers aren't so sure how great it will be for their bottom lines. A range of challenges, from the extra manpower needed to pack up and ship alcohol to state liquor law restrictions on sales, have liquor proprietors less than bubbly about Donahoe's proposal.
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Donahoe told that AP that people who tour a winery on vacation could more easily mail a bottle or two home, for example. The USPS is considering special boxes that would hold two, four or six bottles and ship for a flat rate to anywhere in the United States, he said. The same could be true for micro-brewers that only sell locally.
Sounds good, but experts said the reality is that many craft brewers simply won't have the money or staffing to devote to mail-order beer. So while the opportunity is there, the resources might not be available. Most wineries may have the same issues.
It is unclear whether there would be enough demand for mail-order beer to make it worth doing, especially since it can be costly for brewers. After all, beer is heavy, fragile and perishable. Consumers will also have to decide whether they're willing to pay shipping fees to have something delivered when there are dozens of options in their local liquor store. Some might offer specialty beers to spur sales, but consumers already line up outside the brewery and sell out the specialty line, bringing the need for mail sales into question.
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Still, without speculating about the volume of business a mail-order option might bring, the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, which represents 1,797 U.S. craft and larger beer makers, said certain small brewers with specialty beers would have an interest in the USPS option.
Michael Peticolas, owner of Peticolas Brewing Company in Dallas, is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of shipping beer. He said such an option would likely help boost sales, because craft beer is a luxury item, which people are willing to pay a premium for, even if that includes shipping fees.
U.S. law currently prevents the Postal Service from mailing alcohol. The Postal Service even asks customers to cover any alcohol-related logos or labels if they choose to use an alcoholic beverage box for shipping.