Used to be, you had to leave the house to satisfy your vice (or vices, plural, depending on your spiritual ability to juggle multiple indulgences). If you wanted to gamble, you had to hop in the car and find the nearest casino. If you wanted porn, you had to locate the shadiest, most concealed parking spot at the adult book store.
And if you wanted alcohol, well, you had to drag your soggy brain to the liquor store or, for a mere sixer of Bud, the nearest 7-Eleven (excluding jurisdictions where convenience stores are as dry as the Slim Jims at the counter).
Ultra — a service that offers one-hour delivery of spirits, wine and beer — plans to make alcohol as easy to access as Internet porn. The startup already offers deliveries in New York and Chicago, and it's now expanding to the District, where it officially debuts Thursday in select neighborhoods, including Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Cleveland Park, Woodley Park, Capitol Hill, Bloomingdale and others.
Based on the business models of food delivery services such as Seamless and GrubHub, Ultra works with existing bricks-and-mortar liquor stores, which will actually process the orders and deliver the bottles. Some D.C. stores already offer delivery, but one benefit of Ultra would appear to be that ultimate millennial-era service: the ability to not talk to a human being. You can order online (after you create an account). The delivery fee is a flat $5.
You will, naturally, have to talk to the delivery person, who will be the lone soul to stand between you and the law. The driver will be the one to card you.
"The delivery person will check [IDs] before handing over the delivery," e-mails Aniket Shah, CEO and founder of Ultra. "They can refuse delivery to [any] person who already seems intoxicated."
Lone delivery person, drunk man at the door looking for more, no security cameras in sight: That sounds like a potential nightmare scenario, but Shah says partner stores have the ability to refuse a call "based on the delivery location and driver safety."
Ultra has both a mobile app and a desktop version. I was testing the desktop version, and it's not intuitive on how to move from the order form to checkout. I had to e-mail the CEO — presumably a person not listed in everyone's contacts — who said I needed to click on the price at the top right of the Web page to proceed to checkout. I suspect Ultra will make this interaction more clear-cut in future iterations.
The Ultra service is available in the District Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. "We might add hours based on the response from users," adds Shah.