Licensed retailers and restaurants in New York State can now buy directly from out-of-state producers on the internet, a state lawyer says.

Thomas Donohue, the lawyer for New York’s State Liquor Authority, has given the nod to the use of newly-developed technology that enables New York to hand middlemen a new commercial benefit without essentially changing the state’s three-tier system.

A store or restaurant interested in buying, say, six bottles of a boutique’s limited-edition wine will be able to order the wine on the internet by visiting a site listing all wineries participating in the program.

Instantaneously a transaction takes place in which the order goes to a prearranged wholesaler, whom the winery’s computer bills for the purchase.

The wholesaler’s computer sets aside taxes on the purchase, bills the retailer or restaurateur and, deducting its margin, pays the winery. The producer sends the bottles directly to the buyer.

For a nominal extra outlay, the system gives middlemen additional business because previously they had declined to carry the wine in question on the grounds that supplies were too limited and demand too small to warrant the costs of buying, shipping, warehousing, selling and delivering the wine.

All this has been brought about by the Liquor Authority’s lawyer, who has advised the Inertia Beverage Group, a Californian company, that its technology can be used to automate sales this way.

Paul Mabray, Inertia’s chief executive officer, calls New York’s approval ‘groundbreaking.’ He is in talks with five wholesalers and two have expressed interest in coming aboard.

After debuting his system in New York, Mabray hopes to enter California, Arizona, Washington State, Texas and Florida next year.

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York