Home delivered booze business faces staunch criticism from health groups

A beer delivery service is in doubt after the business postponed its launch.
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A beer delivery service is in doubt after the business postponed its launch.

An on-demand alcohol delivery service which promised to deliver booze within an hour is on the rocks amid concerns it would fuel binge drinking.

The MoaMule business was due to launch in Auckland last week and had been promoted as "like a beer Uber" before joint partners Moa beer and courier company UrbanSherpa decided to reconsider the venture.

UrbanSherpa chief executive Brian Dewil said there were a few "obstacles" relating to licensing agreements to overcome. 

He said he was hopeful the beer service would go ahead in the future but was concerned about rushing into the business. 

"We didn't want to come out all guns blazing. We want to make sure that whatever we do is all above board."

The service was aimed at delivering boxes of Moa beer or cider in less than an hour to people's home, workplace or party for a $12 delivery fee.

A media release described it as "beer on demand" and said "next time you're stuck for after-work drinks, or when your fridge is empty, MoaMule lets you have your next round within an hour".

A Wellington-based alcohol delivery business called Quenched was taken offline within one day of its launch in May after a backlash from health professionals and authorities.

"Obviously Quenched tried to launch what they did and landed in hot water, so we don't want to be anywhere near that," Dewil said.

The lesson from Quenched was that there was a fine line between providing convenience to customers and being seen to be encourage excess drinking, Dewil said.

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"I wouldn't have done what they did in terms of aggressively saying we can make people's lives happier.

"I think that was a potential mistake." 

Moa chief executive Geoff Ross said the MoaMule concept was different, but still needed some tweaking.

"We did look at getting ourselves ready to announce but then decided look probably not, we probably needed to take a much bigger look at it," he said. 

"We're not going to move until we're convinced it's the right thing to do for our customers and that it's the safe way to do it as well."

New Zealand Medical Association chairman Stephen Child said any on-demand beer service was sending the wrong message about alcohol consumption.

"The problem is the advertising saying you need alcohol in a hurry. I struggle to see how you need alcohol in a hurry," he said.

"We're not trying to be wowsers or a nanny state. But marketing that tries to skew the pitch to say you need (alcohol) now is not the direction we want to go."

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams said availability and ease of access was a factor in increasing the risk of harmful drinking.

"From a harm perspective we know that marketing and promoting is also a factor in that, so this is potentially a concern."

Auckland Council's manager of alcohol licensing Rob Abbott said any off-licence holder was entitled to deliver alcohol to an address. But he said as far as he was aware, 'MoaMule' would be the first in the city to offer on-demand alcohol deliveries.

"The uniqueness with Moa is probably how soon they can deliver," he said.

A police spokeswoman said in a statement they were closely monitoring the MoaMule business and had contacted the owners to remind them of their legal obligations.

"While such services offer convenience for people, this needs to be balanced against the risk of people having easier access to alcohol, which could potentially encourage excessive drinking or otherwise put themselves or others at risk," she said.

Ross said the MoaMule would only go ahead after consultation with authorities, existing retail partners and customers, and ultimately may not get the green light.

But he expected on-demand deliveries for alcohol was "inevitable" as customers' demands changed. 

"We need to be doing what our customers expect. And if more and more people are online shopping then we need to be part of that. As long as it's sanctioned and licensed in the right way."

 - Stuff

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