Oklahoma Dry Counties to Vote on Allowing Alcohol Sales

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Oklahoma is one of several states that still has so-called "dry counties" that prohibit the sale of alcohol. According to the Enid News & Eagle, however, the state will allow the dry counties to vote on whether to allow drink sales at bars and restaurants:

The 14 remaining "dry" counties in the state of Oklahoma will all give their residents a chance to vote on a liquor-by-the-drink sales proposition on the June 26 ballot...

As of now, the 14 counties do not allow the sale of strong beer, wine or liquor in local restaurants or bars. If the proposition were to pass, the counties that pass it would be allowed to sell alcohol above 3.2 percent by weight and continue business as normal.

However, if the proposition fails to pass, the counties failing to pass it would not be allowed to sell any beer, wine or liquor starting Oct. 1, while the rest of the state embraces alcohol modernization.

"We are very happy to see that the county commissioners in each of these counties understand the damage of not allowing liquor-by-the-drink sales could do to businesses," said Oklahoma Beer Alliance President Lisette Barnes. "This is the right way forward to give local residents a chance to vote on this issue."

Despite 12 of the 14 dry counties approving State Question 792 - which allows for the sale of cold strong beer in grocery, convenience and liquor stores - it didn't change local laws that restrict sales of alcohol more than 3.2 percent at restaurants and bars..."

Read the rest here.

 

New Bill Would Repeal Federal Prohibition on Distilling on Indian Lands

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An antiquated federal law prohibits distilleries from being operated on Indian lands in the United States, and according to the site Indianz.com, Congress is now considering a bill to repeal this law:

A vestige of a paternalistic era in federal law and policy might finally be coming down, leading the way to more economic development in Indian Country.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill last week that repeals a 19th-century ban on alcohol distilleries on tribal lands. Supporters say there is no reason why tribes should be treated any differently than other governments when it comes to manufacturing liquor.

“It’s time we remove this outdated rule and allow tribes to pursue the same economic opportunity on their land allowed on non-tribal land," Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Washington), the sponsor of H.R.5317, the Repeal of Prohibition on Certain Alcohol Manufacturing on Indian Lands Act, said in a press release.

The ban at issue was enacted by Congress on June 30, 1834. In order to "regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes," lawmakers at the time thought it was best to prohibit anyone from giving "spirituous liquor or wine" to an Indian person and to prohibit the manufacture of "ardent spirits" in Indian Country...

Read the rest here.

It's time to allow booze at SEC college football games

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Beer and other alcohol is ubiquitous at professional sports stadiums around the country, but less so at the college level. R Street's Marc Hyden argues that the SEC should allow booze inside its stadiums on gameday--and how doing so would ultimately be a win-win on policy grounds:

According to the old maxim, “In the South, college football isn’t just a sport. It’s a religion.” Indeed, there are few things more hallowed than Southeastern Conference (SEC) football on Saturdays and church on Sundays. In fact, Sundays in the Bible Belt were once treated the same as many of today’s college athletic stadiums, where there is a strict prohibition of general alcohol sales.

And while this issue once spanned college sports across the country, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has gradually loosened its restrictions. Now it appears poised to relax them even further by allowing general alcohol sales at championship events. Yet rather than following the NCAA’s lead, SEC leadership has stood firmly opposed to the liberalization of alcohol policies, leaving its 14 schools with mostly “dry” stadiums. The SEC should reverse this blanket prohibition and leave the decision up to the local authorities...

Read the rest here.

Utah to require grocery stores to apply for new state license to sell beer

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Utah currently only allows grocery stores to sell weak 3.2 ABV beer, and now state alcohol regulators are set to require the stores to apply for a new state-issued license to continue selling beer at all. According to Fox13now.com, the new rules are set to take effect this year:

Under a new law passed by the legislature, every single grocery and convenience store in Utah that wants to sell beer will have to apply for a liquor license.

They will apply for "off-premise" beer licenses that will subject them to new regulations from Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The DABC said it will begin taking applications in July, when the law takes effect.

"The licenses were previously local and now with the new legislation, it will be overseen by the state," said DABC Commissioner Neal Berube.

Mom-and-pop convenience stores and mega-grocery chains will face inspections and, if there's violations, fines or revocation of their beer license. There are also new restrictions being put in place limiting beer displays to only two areas in a store and signage clearly warning that people are purchasing an alcoholic beverage...

Read the rest here.

Pennsylvania might improve its dreadful drinks laws—a little

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Pennsylvania's legislature is set to consider a bill that would roll back the state's recently-implemented flexible-pricing scheme for alcohol. R Street's Jarrett Dieterle has written before about how booze markups in control states function analogously to a stealth tax, and now R Street's Kevin Kosar weighs in on Pennsylvania's specific situation in an op-ed for the American Spectator:

If Rep. Jesse Topper has his way, Pennsylvania’s legislature will roll back its infamous stealth tax on drinks. Topper, a Republican representing the south-central Bedford, Franklin, and Mercer counties, has introduced H.R. 2263, which would repeal the “flexible pricing” authority given to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in 2016.

Why is this good news? Well, the cheerfully named provision had the dreadful effect of enabling the state liquor officials to raise prices as they saw fit. The PLCB has a monopoly on the sale of spirits and a near monopoly on wine sales, so it can set prices without fear of price competition. And with the state legislature demanding the PCLB give it big chunks of revenue each year to fund government employees’ pensions and the like, the problem is obvious: flexible pricing is a stealth tax. Bureaucrats raise revenues for general government spending by elevating mark-ups paid by drinks consumers, sans legislative enactment. It is literally taxation without representation...

Read the rest of Kosar's op-ed here.

 

Arizona Cracks Down On ... Late Night Online Booze Sales?

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Many states have restrictions on the hours in which liquor retailers can sell booze. Arizona is no exception, making it illegal to "sell, dispose of, deliver or give alcoholic beverages between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m." But in a move that will surely have implications for the future of the online booze economy, the state Attorney General has said that this restriction also applies to online alcohol sales:

[T]he way Attorney General Mark Brnovich sees it, you can't get on your computer and order booze between 2 and 6 a.m., even if you're not planning to have your order delivered until more reasonable hours -- and even if that order is going out of state.

The reason all this became a legal issue is because of questions raised John Cocca, director of the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. He said the way people buy beer, wine and hard liquor is changing.

"There are a lot more Internet sales and a lot more people ordering alcohol over the Internet or via the computer or over the phone,'' he said.

Web sites in particular operate on a 24/7 basis. They don't even require there be a live body at the other end...

Arizona's liquor laws apply not to individuals but instead to the sellers who all have to be licensed by the state. That includes out-of-state firms that need to get a permit before delivering their products here.

And that means it's the retailer who took that order at 3 a.m., Arizona time, who could wind up in legal hot water...

Read more here.

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle has previously written about the future of the online booze economy for Forbes.

 

Don't Expect Private Liquor Stores in Maryland's Montgomery County Anytime Soon

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Maryland's Montgomery County's government-run liquor stores are notorious (see R Street VP Kevin Kosar's take on Montgomery County booze sales here). Last year, however, the state legislature granted the county the ability to license privately-owned liquor stores. But according to Bethesda Magazine, county liquor regulators remain noncommittal about when (and even if) such licenses will be granted:

The Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control’s director said this week the department hasn’t set a timeline or established a policy to begin licensing privately owned beer and wine stores in the county to sell liquor.

The DLC has had the ability to license the privately owned stores to sell spirits for more than a year.

If implemented, such a policy could change the county’s long-held monopoly on the retail sale of liquor at its 27 government-run retail stores, which are the only locations where residents and others can buy spirits such as whiskey, vodka and rum in the county.

Hundreds of privately owned beer and wine store owners could potentially apply for spirits licenses if the county created a policy for them to do so. However, Dorfman said any new policy would likely not permit a privately owned store that wants to sell liquor to operate within five miles of a county liquor store...

Read the rest here.

 

Connecticut Kills Bill to Allow Distilleries to Serve On-Premise

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Connecticut recently considered a bill that would have allowed distilleries in the state the ability to sell their spirits by the glass to on-premise visitors. According to the CT Post, the proposal was killed in response to opposition from the state restaurant industry:

A plan to allow state distilleries to sell their product by the glass on their premises will likely have to wait until next year.

A proposal before the state Legislature that would have put distilleries on par with their counterparts in the craft beer market was defeated after proponents of the restaurant industry, including state Rep. David Rutigliano, R-Trumbull, raised opposition.

Rutigliano said allowing distilleries — as well as breweries — to serve their manufactured products in a taproom setting is an unfair advantage compared to restaurants and bars. “At some point all these businesses have to decide what business they’re in,” he said. “Either you’re a bar or a manufacturer.”

Read the rest here.

South Carolina Reinstitutes Liquor Store Cap

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Last year, South Carolina's supreme court struck down the state's liquor license cap for retail stores. Previously, the state had only allowed a single owner to operate up to 4 stores in the state, an arbitrary restriction that the court found to violate the state constitution. Ever since, lawmakers have been determined to reinstitute the cap in some form, and it appears they're on the brink of accomplishing that goal:

The House has approved a bill to re-establish the state’s limit on how many liquor stores a person or business can own.

In a 100-1 vote on Tuesday, the House agreed with a Senate proposal limiting licenses based on whether a country has a population of more than 250,000 people.

The new law keeps the limit of three stores except in seven counties which have a population over a quarter of a million.

In those counties, owners are allowed up to six stores.

More here.

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle previously wrote both an op-ed and a policy short about last year's state supreme court decision.

 

Challenge to Minnesota's In-State Grape Growing Requirement Rejected

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Last year, two Minnesota wineries brought a case challenging the state's requirement that all state-based wineries use Minnesota grapes in their wine (a requirement that doesn't apply to breweries in the state who frequently purchase out-of-state hops and other ingredients). Represented by the Institute for Justice, the wineries argued that the restriction violated the U.S. Constitution. According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, however, a federal judge has rejected the challenge (although there are plans for an appeal):

A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit brought by a pair of Minnesota vineyards objecting to a Minnesota law that most state wineries must use mostly Minnesota grapes to make their wine.

The Star Tribune reports on the ruling, which dealt a blow to New Prague's Next Chapter Winery and  Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings, which had claimed that the state rule unfairly hampered their business by blocking them from using, say, mostly California grapes in their Minnesota wine.

U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright didn't rule on the merits of the state's law but said the wineries lacked grounds to sue because they had a way around it. Minnesota lets wineries that obtain a manufacturing license to make wine with any grapes they choose. But that would mean giving up direct sales to consumers, because of a separate state law...

More here.