State alcohol regulators have revoked delivery service Gopuff’s license to deliver alcohol after catching the company in a string of sales to underage students near Boston College in late 2021.
In a report published Friday, investigators with the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission detailed 19 counts of unlawful sale or delivery to people under the age of 21 in the span of three weeks, ranging from leaving four bottles of Barefoot Cellars wine with two women to delivering fifths of Kavlana vodka and 30-packs of Budweiser, Miller, and Natural Light to a quartet of 18-year-olds with a hockey bag outside a BC freshman dorm.
State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, who oversees the ABCC, commended the team on its work on the case in a statement.
“We are committed to stopping underage drinking and its devastating consequences,” she said.
Gopuff is no longer allowed to deliver alcohol in Massachusetts, but spokesperson Brigid Gorham said the company has taken steps to combat the issue in the 18 months since the investigation ended and will appeal the decision. It has already implemented an enhanced training curriculum for delivery drivers, enhanced ID scanning, and rolled out a “secret shopper program.”
“We have always taken the responsible sale and delivery of alcohol extremely seriously and continually enhance the robust systems we have in place to prevent the sale of alcohol to underage customers,” a statement said. “As soon as we were made aware of these events, we immediately began working to further enhance our compliance measures.”
Customers have to add a photo of their identification on the Gopuff application, and delivery drivers are required to check ID again at drop-off. But in several incidents detailed in the report between Nov. 18 and Dec. 9, 2021, customers presented the drivers fake IDs.
In one instance, investigators watched a Gopuff driver deliver two 30-packs of Natural Light and a 12-pack of White Claw hard seltzers to a 20-year-old at a home near the South Street MBTA station. The next evening, Gopuff delivered vodka and Chardonnay to two women sitting with empty backpacks on Cotton Street. One was later found to be 18 years old.
On Dec. 2, investigators approached a man who had been running toward a Toyota Prius that had been loaded with Budweiser, Truly hard seltzer, and New Amsterdam Pink Whitney from Gopuff. When asked his age, the man “sprinted away toward the direction of Boston College resident halls, leaving behind [a] black duffel bag” containing alcohol, the report reads.
It’s another hit for Gopuff, the Philadelphia company that boomed in the early days of COVID with the promise of 15-minute delivery.
It began operating in Boston in 2014 and has three facilities in the city, plus more in Newton, Lowell, Worcester, and Waltham. It raised over $1 billion from Blackstone and Fidelity in July 2021 and forged an alliance with UberEats later that year, expanded rapidly by one to two storefronts daily nationwide. In late 2020, Gopuff even delivered COVID-19 test kits to people’s doorsteps in under an hour.
Then customers’ appetite for quick delivery fell as the pandemic waned. Gopuff laid off 2,300 employees between January 2021 and October 2022, and the company tried to raise a $300 million credit line in August 2022 after a delayed IPO, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In March, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell levied a $6.2 million fine against Gopuff for misclassifying drivers.
Diti Kohli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.