NEW SPRINGVILLE — Virtual bucks can now get you real drunk.
Staten Island-based City Wine Cellar has started to accept the decentralized digital currency Bitcoin for orders of wine and spirits on its website, owner John Ha, 34, said.
Ha got introduced to Bitcoin by his cousin and saw there were few places to buy booze with the online dough.
"[My cousin was] looking for places where people accept Bitcoins, and they couldn't go anywhere to buy liquor or wine," Ha said. "I thought let me start accepting Bitcoins so people can start spending their coins."
Ha started to accept the money four weeks ago, and hasn't done much to advertise that you can use the coins, except some postings on forums and a write-up in a Bitcoin blog.
However, Ha said response has been great and he's already received nearly 40 orders from people using the e-cash.
While he hasn't tallied the Bitcoin orders yet, Ha said the average Bitcoin order for his site is approximately .30 BTC, which is worth about $280, according to CoinMill.com.
Bitcoin was started in 2009 by an anonymous developer (or developers) known by the name Satoshi Nakamoto, and its value fluctuates. It was around $13.50 earlier this year and hit a record-high of more than $1,000 per Bitcoin last week.
Unlike most money, Bitcoin isn't regulated by governments or banks. Instead it uses a peer-to-peer computer network of users' machines to check transactions.
"It's a great currency," Ha said. "There's no transaction fees, no bank processing fees, basically cutting those people out."
While currently Ha only accepts the coin for orders made on his website, he plans to let people pay with Bitcoin in his brick-and-mortar store at 2295 Richmond Ave. after the holiday rush.
"Next year we'll start rolling that out," he said. "We're approaching our busiest time of the year, so next year we'll start doing it inside the store."
And while some people are skeptical about trusting an online cryptocurrency that was developed anonymously, Ha thinks more people will jump on the currency and it'll take off.
"More and more people use the coins," he said. "It's going to be, hopefully, just like credit cards."