Beer and Wine (But Not Liquor) Now Allowed on Military Bases

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Recently, the U.S. military started allowing wine and beer to be sold on military bases, and now distilled spirits companies are asking why they’re being treated any differently. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Spirits companies have fought for decades to convince consumers and regulators that liquor should be treated the same as beer and wine. Now they’re taking on the U.S. military.

The Defense Department this summer began allowing military commissaries—the equivalent of grocery stores on bases—to sell beer and wine for the first time but not vodka, whiskey and other types of liquor. The ruling sparked an outcry among spirits makers who have since lobbied lawmakers to ensure their products can be sold in commissaries, too…

The whole article can be found here. R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle and Arthur Rizer have previously argued that soldiers should also be allowed to drink starting at age 18.

It's time to privatize North Carolina liquor sales

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After a recent audit uncovered millions in wasted money by North Carolina’s government-run liquor stores, new calls for privatizing alcohol sales in the Tarheel State have arisen. The president of the N.C. Retail Merchants Association recently made the case in The News & Observer:

In 1937, after the repeal of prohibition laws, the N.C. General Assembly established a monopoly system for North Carolina and the sale of spiritous liquors. Now, more than 80 years later, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission still does exactly that – controls alcoholic beverages in North Carolina.

They not only determine what brands of alcoholic beverages may be sold, maintain the state ABC warehouse for the distribution of liquor, regulate the sale of wine and beer, and issue permits for wineries, breweries, wholesalers, and retailers but they also, with total exclusivity, sell liquor by the bottle.

Simply put, the system hasn’t modernized with the times nor does it meet the needs and wants of today’s consumers.

North Carolina is only one of eight states that controls both the wholesale and retail sale of liquor and the only state where the stores are run by 168 local ABC Boards in individual cities and towns...

Read more here.

Trump Hotel Liquor License Safe (For Now)

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Recently, a petition was submitted to the D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Board to revoke the liquor license of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. The petition was based on the requirement that license holders must exhibit “good moral character,” a standard which the petitioners argued President Donald Trump had not lived up to. Politico reports that the petition was rejected (for now):

Citing a technicality, a Washington, D.C., board on Wednesday refused to review a liquor license held by Trump International Hotel to determine whether the building's owner, President Donald Trump, meets the "good character" test required to serve alcohol in the city.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board questioned the timing of a complaint against the hotel, saying a character review couldn't be conducted until the hotel applies to renew its license in March.

The decision was unanimous, with two members of the seven-member board not in attendance.

A lawyer for the complainants said they would appeal…

Read the rest here.

(The use of good moral character clauses has an interesting and troubling history in the occupational licensing context, as R Street’s Jonathan Haggerty has previously written about).

Oklahoma preps for freeing the drinks

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In 3 weeks, a bevy of alcohol reforms will go into effect in Oklahoma, including allowing grocery stores to sell wine and higher-alcohol beer. According to OKCFox.com, stores are busy preparing for the big day:

We're just three weeks away from new liquor laws going into effect in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (ABLE) is working overtime to get alcohol licenses to businesses across the state, as grocery stores and gas stations prepare to sell wine and high point beer.

Homeland grocery store on Classen and NW 18th has already stocked shelves with wine in anticipation of the big day. There is a sign letting customers know they can't buy it yet.

Many businesses are letting their 3.2 beer sell out so they're not stuck with low point inventory come October 1st.

"There’s been a lot of places that are completely empty," said Cindy Jones, manager of 50 EZ Shop. "We’ve just been selling out and not buying any."

Businesses have to apply for a retail license through the ABLE Commission to sell strong beer or wine. They also have to apply for employee licenses for those who make the transactions.

Read more here.

Will California Start Requiring Wineries to Install Ethanol Emission Controls?

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The production of wine can cause small amounts of ethanol emissions, which recently sparked a court case and settlement in California between the Wine Institute and local regulators. Wine Business has the full story:

Smaller and medium-size wineries may be required to install new ethanol emission controls on indoor, closed-top tanks 30,000 gallons or less, according to a settlement reached this summer between air district officials in Santa Barbara County and Wine Institute.

The settlement signed in June stems from an appeal Wine Institute filed in October 2017 over a Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District’s decision to issue a permit to Santa Maria custom-crush facility that wanted to crush and ferment more grapes, according to district filings…

The determination affecting closed, indoor tanks of up to 30,000 gallons is now posted on the California Air Resource Board’s clearinghouse. This means other air districts may use it as a basis to require other wineries of a similar type to install ethanol emission controls, explained Wine Institute general counsel Tracy Genesen…

Read the rest here.

Alcohol Producers Benefit From Being Able to Sell Each Other's Products

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Many states restrict the ability of craft alcohol producers to sell products from their competitors. While this may seem counterintuitive, many producers benefit from reciprocity laws, as the Seven Fifty Daily explains:

A few years after New Mexico’s reciprocity law was enacted, winegrowers and small brewers have enthusiastically embraced the legislation. Today, at more than 50 winery tasting rooms and brewery taprooms, producers are selling each other’s wares. So you can drink a frothy brew in a winery tasting room, or a glass of wine in a taproom. This liberalization of the sale of alcohol is giving small producers a leg up, with increased sales and revenue streams that extend beyond the tasting room.

New York led the charge for this type of legislation in 2012 with its farm producer license, which allows farm-based producers of all alcoholic beverages to sell beer, wine, cider, and spirits with a single license. The move was championed by New York governor Andrew Cuomo, and the economic impact for craft beverage producers in New York has been substantial, with more than 500 new craft businesses having opened since 2012. “New York has great agriculture,” says Jennifer Smith, who represents the New York Cider Association and the New York State Distillers Guild. “There’s incredible growth in job creation and crop utilization as a result of this legislation. This ties together expressions of place, jobs, and good old-fashioned economic gains.”

New Mexico’s reciprocity law, passed in 2015, allows all New Mexico producers of beer, as well as wine and cider producers who use at least 50 percent New Mexico–grown ingredients, may self-distribute and sell any other New Mexico–made beers, wines, and ciders from their tasting rooms. Chris Goblet, the executive director of New Mexico Wines, who chaired the economic development committee responsible for developing the legislation, says, “I just thought, Wouldn’t it be easy if a local manufacturer could sell to another local manufacturer? We could have true reciprocity.”...

Read the rest here.

New California Bill Would Make Life Easier on Craft Distillers

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Under California law, craft distillers face restrictions on being able to sell their products directly to on-site customers. According to SF Weekly, a new bill seeks to fix this problem:

A whole lot of legislation pours out of Sacramento in the final days of August, and one bill takes a shot at the very curious regulations that cover California’s small-batch, craft spirit distilleries. Alcohol and spirit distillers like Alameda’s St. George Spirits and Menlo Park’s Rocket Vodka are treated much differently than wineries, beer breweries, and large-scale liquor producers.

In a bizarre legal stipulation, distilleries can only sell you their craft liquors if they have a tasting room, and after you’ve already participated in a tasting. If the craft distillery does not have a tasting room, they cannot sell you booze at all, and must rely on their distributor for sales.

State senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) is on the verge of changing that, with a bill that just passed both houses of the California legislature on its next-to-last day of eligibility for the year. Skinner’s SB 1164, nicknamed the“Craft Distiller Op-pour-tunity” Act, would allow all 82 of California’s craft distillers to sell directly to consumers even if they do not have a tasting room...

Read the rest here.

 

Recent Alcohol Law Changes in Colorado

  Image via Wikipedia.

Image via Wikipedia.

In 2016, Colorado made headlines for reforming some of its outdated alcohol laws, including allowing grocery stores to sell full-strength beer (covered here). The booze debates have continued in Denver, with recent legislation passing that included some reforms as well as some restrictions. The Shelby Report has the update on what the bill included:

• Permits full-strength beer sales in all existing grocery and convenience stores, without distance restrictions to liquor stores or schools. It requires that new convenience and grocery stores wishing to sell those beverages be at least 500 feet from an existing liquor store;

• Allows clerks as young as 18 to sell full-strength beer, wine or spirits at grocery, convenience and liquor stores, down from the previously required age of 21 for such sales;

• Requires new grocery and convenience stores that wish to sell full-strength beer to derive at least 20 percent of their revenue from food sales. Existing grocery and convenience stores are grandfathered in to sell beer regardless of their income breakdown;

• Allows full-strength beer sellers to deliver beer to customers, provided they sell at least 50 percent of their alcohol from a brick-and-mortar location and use company employees in company vehicles to make the deliveries. This provision was added by legislators with the intension of trying to stop Amazon from taking over the local liquor-delivery market;

• Bans any full-strength-beer sellers from selling beer at below-cost prices;

• Allows Walmart—which had been left out of the original bill in 2016 permitting—expanded grocery store alcohol sales, to get the same extra 19 licenses over the next 19 years as was provided for other chain food stores; and

• Allows local governments and the Colorado Division of Wildlife to decide what kind of alcohol consumption will be allowed in public parks, since state law previously had limited such consumption to low-strength beer.

Read more here.

 

Why Rebranding Sin Taxes as "Health Taxes" Doesn't Fix Anything

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There's been a recent wave afoot to rename sin taxes as health taxes. R Street's Kevin Kosar writes for American Spectator about how this doesn't alleviate any of the drawbacks of using sin taxes:

Have you heard the news? So-called “sin taxes” — particularly those on alcoholic beverages — are being rebranded as “health taxes.” It’s true...

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other public health advocates think sin taxes should be called and viewed as “health taxes.” Certain activities and products, like gambling and booze, issue “externalities” that are born by the community collectively. They say the overwhelming evidence indicates that higher taxes on alcohol and other vices will reduce excessive consumption and the associated health costs.

For sure, alcohol addiction and severe abuse is damaging. Anyone who has ever known an addict can speak to the awfulness and tragedy of it all. The same goes with compulsive gambling, which is horrifically costly.

So, what’s not to like about a sin or health tax?

Plenty. Dressing up the sin tax as a “health tax” sweeps under the rug some of the problems with this policy tool...

Read the rest of Kevin's column here.

 

Do more alcohol outlets lead to more drinking? Not necessarily.

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A new study in Addiction purports to find that more alcohol outlets mean more drinking among local consumers--which led the authors of the study to call for more intense regulation of alcohol licenses. But Christopher Snowden from Spectator Health argues that the study may have been flawed:

It seems to be Economic Illiteracy Week in the temperance movement. On Monday, it was ‘revealed’ that places which have more alcohol outlets have higher rates of alcohol-related harm. Since alcohol-related harm is linked to alcohol consumption, this is a fairly basic illustration of supply and demand. Greater demand results in greater availability.

The authors of the study, published in Addiction, found that there were 16 per cent more hospital admissions for ‘acute alcohol intoxication’ in areas where there is a high density of pubs and clubs. While this might be a ‘no shit, Sherlock’ moment for anyone familiar with the real world, the plot thickened when they found that restaurant density was associated with an even larger rise of 22 per cent. Since restaurants are not generally regarded as binge-drinking hotspots, it seems likely that the causal factor is the night-time economy in city centres rather than the number of alcohol licences per se.

Nevertheless, the authors concluded their study by calling for ‘more intensive regulatory scrutiny’ of ‘licensing policy decisions’. Translation: restrict availability in the vain hope that making alcohol fractionally less easy to come by will stop people getting drunk.

Read more here.