Mini Bottles of Alcohol Banned in Massachusetts Town

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We recently highlighted an article by Wayne Curtis on the history of mini bottles in America and the various government efforts to regulate and ban them over the years. Now comes news from the Boston Globe that the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts is banning them, blaming the bottles for the city’s public drunkenness problem:

This city wants to take a bite out of its public drinking problem. Well, a few nips, anyway. And the liquor industry is fighting back.

Chelsea this year became the first municipality in Massachusetts to ban the sale of the ubiquitous little liquor bottles, blaming them for contributing to public drunkenness in the downtown area it has worked hard to revive.

In pulling nips from store shelves last March, the city took a step that many others have considered without any real success, given the opposition from the package store industry.

Not surprisingly, the clampdown has sparked a backlash from Chelsea’s liquor stores, which have appealed the ban to the state, arguing it was approved without any evidence the stores themselves have done anything wrong…

Read the rest here.


Wisconsin Alcohol Study Committee Avoids the Hard Questions

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Facing pressure to reform the state’s three-tier system of alcohol distribution, Wisconsin lawmakers appointed a study committee to review the state’s alcohol regulations. As the committee completes its work, it looks like it largely avoided delving into the most contested and controversial issues, according to The Cap Times:

Disputes over how Wisconsin's alcohol beverage industry is regulated and enforced are set to continue as a legislative study committee winds down this month, and questions remain about how Democrat Gov.-elect Tony Evers' administration will approach the issue.

The legislative study committee was assembled earlier this year to examine how the state's alcohol beverage laws are enforced, or not. But the committee never dealt with the primary gripe of the state's growing craft beverage industry: that the state's alcohol laws, known as the three-tier system, should be altered and modernized to accommodate a changing business landscape.

The committee instead focused on the interpretation of current alcohol laws by the state Department of Justice, and the degree to which they are enforced by the state Department of Revenue - both of which are ostensibly more unclear with the election of Democrat Evers than they were when the committee convened…

Read more here.

The Battle Over Interstate Wine Shipping Continues to Spread

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Amidst recent crackdowns on interstate wine shipments from retailers—not to mention the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear the case of Tennessee Wine v. Byrd, which could have profound implications for wine shipping—Florida has become the latest legal battleground on the issue. As reported by Wine-Searcher:

Midwestern attorney Robert Epstein is on a mission to open up as many states as possible to interstate shipping.

"We have pending cases in Missouri, Illinois and Michigan, which is now on appeal," one of the Indianapolis-based founders of Epstein, Cohen, Seif & Flora shares. He has next set his sights on Florida, where he has requested a declaratory statement from the state's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT), requesting that the state permit out-of-state retailers to ship wine into Florida…

Epstein's plan – if successful – is likely to broaden the availability in both Florida, and other markets, to older, unusual wines and those found through the auction market. Lesser-expensive, commercial wines are not likely to be a big factor in future Florida purchases, unlike the less-expensive, over-the-state line purchases that have influenced the Chicago and Maine markets, where taxes are much lower in both neighboring Indiana and New Hampshire

Read more here.

Also of note in the interstate wine shipping wars, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals recently held in favor of a wine store owner challenging Illinois’ ban on wine shipments from out-of-state retailers.



North Carolina's ABC Limits Product Offerings

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The hits just keep on coming for North Carolina alcohol consumers. After an audit found that the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission wasted millions in taxpayer money through mismanagement, the commission has now announced that it’s reducing its booze offerings, according to Carolina Journal:

An email to suppliers last week from the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Commission, in addition to announcing that it’s trimming the number of products it lists, cited the state’s alcohol warehouse operator for its good work.

It’s the same operator, LB&B, which was named in an audit released this past summer that found poor contract administration cost North Carolina taxpayers at least $11.3 million over 13 years. Unused warehouse space potentially cost the state $2.1 million over seven years, and a lack of monitoring left the state underpaid by at least $297,537 over two years…

Read the rest here.

BYOB Restaurants in New Jersey Can Now Advertise

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New Jersey is notorious for its expensive liquor licenses—a result of its quota system that limits the number of licenses available—which unsurprisingly has led many restaurants in the state to allow “BYOB” booze. While BYOB establishments are popular among New Jerseyans, state law forbids restaurants from advertising that they are BYOB. But now a federal judge has struck down this restriction, according to the New Jersey Law Journal:

A federal judge has ruled that New Jersey’s law barring restaurants from advertising “bring your own beer” policies is unconstitutional.

The state ban on advertising policies that allow patrons to bring their own beer and wine to restaurants, known as BYOB, “places a content-based restriction on speech that fails strict scrutiny because it is not supported by a compelling government interest nor is it the least restrictive means of achieving the government’s stated purpose,” U.S. District Judge Joseph Rodriguez of the District of New Jersey ruled in GJJM Enterprises v. City of Atlantic City.

The state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control “presented no compelling government interest for banning BYOB advertising, while permitting liquor stores and restaurants with liquor licenses to advertise on-site alcohol sales,” Rodriguez said…

Read more here.


Drinking While Grocery Shopping: Coming to a Store Near You?

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VinePair discusses the recent trend in grocery stores offering in-store “pubs” or bars that allow customers to drink in the middle of their shopping experience. As the article notes, the exact format of these bars depends on each state’s alcohol licensing laws:

[C]hains like Wegmans, Whole Foods, Kroger, and California-based Baron’s have rolled out a slew of amenities to get “real” shoppers in the door.

Chief among them is the in-store bar. Shopping drives most of us to drink, it seems; and savvy grocery chains figure they might as well capture those dollars by turning supermarkets into destinations for excellent craft beer and wine…

Different states’ laws dictate how these in-store pubs can work. Depending on the state’s open-carry laws, some allow patrons to sip and shop, while others are partitioned off in specific areas for over-21 shoppers only.

“We have a specific tasting license in five out of seven stores,” Shemirani says. “In our sixth store we pull a one-day event permit, and in our seventh store we have a conditional-use permit. These are all different based on store configurations and the local rules and regulations. The tasting areas must be separated and secured from the rest of the store. Of course, we check all IDs and anyone under 21 is never allowed, including infants.”…

Read the rest here.

TTB Signals Enhanced Enforcement Efforts

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The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau is the primary agency at the federal level that regulates alcohol and enforces trade practice violations. According to Beer Business Daily, the TTB appears to be ramping up its enforcement efforts:

The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which is the federal agency charged with regulating and taxing interstate bev-alc sales and distributors, issued an industry circular last week basically saying, in our words, "Hey guys, after 75 years, we woke up and are shocked, shocked to find that there are a lot of trade practice violations going on out there …”

The circular goes on to chronicle the most common offenses, mostly tied-house stuff regarding the prohibition of giving stuff of value to retailers, no consignment sales, no slotting fees, and the like…

We've seen a flurry of increased enforcement actions by the TTB in recent months, and this circular seems to point to more aggressive enforcement…

Read more here.

ADA Actions Being Brought Against Wineries

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Several lawsuits have been brought against New York wineries for failure to make their websites compliant with the American Disabilities Act. According to Thomas Pellechia at Forbes, however, there is little certainty about what businesses must have ADA-compliant websites and even how such businesses can ensure their websites conform with ADA standards:

In a recent blog post the Napa and Sonoma law firm of Dickenson Peatman & Fogerty (DPF) a firm that deals with many legal aspects of the beverage alcohol industry explained, “ There is considerable ambiguity in the law as to which companies are required to make their websites Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliant and what actually constitutes ADA compliance…

Everyone knows many wineries operate an onsite (physical) tasting room. There, ADA certainly applies. But DPF says the courts have been less than helpful in determining which businesses must make websites ADA compatible. For instance, according to DPF, “The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a website that is not tied to a place of public accommodation or that is attached to a place that does not qualify as a public accommodation is not subject to the ADA.”

Also according to DPF, however, “… there are cases in which courts have concluded that a stand-alone website service without a physical location can itself be considered a place of public accommodation, and subject to ADA requirements.” That means that wine producers who do not have a physical location but sell through a website may need to comply.

The truly crazy part of this story is that wineries seeking to bring their websites into ADA compliance will be unable to find U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines on how to go about doing it. In an article on this subject, a DOJ spokesman told the Wine Spectator the department is “evaluating whether specific web-accessibility standards are necessary to ensure compliance with the ADA.” …

Read the whole article here.


Florida Wine Importer Sues California Over Wine Laws

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California requires all out-of-state wine importers/wholesalers to first sell their wine to an in-state importer/wholesaler before the wine can be sold to California retail outlets. According to Wine & Spirits Daily, a Florida importer is challenging the law in court on the grounds that it discriminates against out-of-state importers:

In California, importers and wholesalers based outside the state must first sell their products to an importer or wholesaler based in California, while in-state importers/wholesalers can sell directly to retailers.

Florida-based Orion Wine Imports argues that requirement adds distribution costs to out-of-state wholesalers that in-state ones don't face, which violates the Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause…

Read more here.

This case could be impacted by the current lawsuit in front of the Supreme Court, Tennessee Wine v. Byrd.

D.C. Implements New Set of Booze Reforms

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R Street has written before about D.C.’s relatively forward thinking alcohol laws, and now the District is set to usher in a series of more reforms. According to WTOP, D.C. alcohol producers will now be able to collaborate with one another and also sell their products online:

Craft brewers, distilleries and wineries in the District can have more parties, collaborate with other brewers and sell beers other than their own in their tasting rooms under a new District law that took effect Tuesday.

D.C. residents can now order craft beers from local brewers online.

The Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Amendment Act of 2018 now allows manufacturers of beer, wine and spirits to create and sell collaboration products with other alcohol manufacturers, both in the District and outside of the District.

For example, breweries can now collaborate and manufacture beer with another brewery, regardless of location, and sell those collaboration beers for on-premise consumption that aren’t solely the brewer’s creation. They can also now sell collaboration beers in growlers for off-premise consumption.

Alcohol manufacturers can now also sell their products online and deliver directly to homes in the District between 7 a.m. and midnight, seven days a week…

Read the rest here.