Virginia’s infamous food-beverage ratio prioritizes cronyism over consumers

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle writes about Virginia's infamous food-beverage ratio:

Virginia may be for lovers, but the state’s draconian liquor laws make nights out on the town not so lovely.

The commonwealth is home to some of America’s worst alcohol laws. Up until 2008 sangria was treated as contraband and restaurants are still forbidden from advertising their happy-hour specials. But there’s no more infamous state law than the food-beverage ratio, which mandates that restaurants must make $45 in food sales for every $55 they make selling liquor-based drinks.

Hugely popular businesses – such as cocktail speakeasies, martini lounges, music clubs and whiskey bars – have trouble satisfying the ratio, given that their customers often go there for the high-end liquor. So they’re forced to change their service models or never do business in the state to begin with.

The food-beverage ratio is a legal zombie: it just won’t die....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/06/27/virginias-infamous-food-beverage-ratio-prioritizes-cronyism-over-consumers/

Pennsylvania’s drinks reform changes too little

R Street's Kevin Kosar on recent alcohol reforms in Pennsylvania:

The Keystone State’s Legislature could have gone big. Instead, it settled for a bill that is about as potent as near beer. Only the politicians are likely to be satisfied.

Gov. Tom Wolf yesterday signed the bill previously passed by both chambers of the Legislature. Lawmakers and media are ballyhooing the statute. House Speaker Mike Turzai declared:

We are, in fact, going to move Pennsylvania into the 21st century … It is an important, historic step and this is a product that is shared by all of us.” Various media outlets have called the reforms “sweeping” and “historic,” said “buying alcohol may get a whole lot easier.


The compromise legislation does end a couple of the most ridiculous aspects of the Pennsylvania drinks system. The prohibition on Sunday sales will end. Casinos will be able to sell beer, spirits and wine 24 hours per day.

Otherwise, there’s little to cheer....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/06/09/pennsylvanias-drinks-reform-changes-too-little/

Do we still need the three-tier system for alcohol?

Charles Cowdery writes over at the R Street blog about the three-tiered alcohol system:

The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which repealed Prohibition, left it up to the states to regulate the distribution and sale of alcoholic beverages. The states did not have to impose a three-tier system – comprising producers, distributors and retailers – but all of them did.

While producers in many sectors rely on distributors to get merchandise to market, with alcohol, it is mandatory. By law, producers may only sell to distributors and retailers may only buy from distributors. Drinks retailers and producers may not do business with each other directly. No business in one tier may own a business in any other tier. Only retailers may sell to consumers.

What’s more, distributors are required to be in-state businesses....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/06/24/do-we-still-need-the-three-tier-system-for-alcohol/

Pennsylvania’s awful alcohol laws turn rational citizens into criminals

Lew Bryson writes about Pennsylvania alcohol laws on the R Street blog:

I am a criminal. I regularly break the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. At least once a month, I drive across the border to New Jersey, pull into the parking lot at Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor in Lawrenceville, go in the store and buy booze. I’ll get a half-dozen bottles of wine, a few 12-packs of beer, maybe get my growler filled from their taps, check the whiskey selection and then head home.

Sounds like a simple shopping expedition, right? But by Pennsylvania law, I’ve committed a crime under the Pennsylvania Liquor Code....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/06/08/pennsylvanias-awful-alcohol-laws-turn-rational-citizens-into-criminals/

The 21st Amendment continues to choke the drinks trade

R Street's Kevin Kosar:

Tennessee recently passed a law limiting any company from owning more than two liquor-store licenses. Why? Well, current holders of liquor licenses don’t want out-of-state grocery chains to enter the market and, gasp, sell more brands of liquor at lower prices.

Would that this were an egregious exception, but such consumer-unfriendly policies are the norm. Consider some examples from around our great nation....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/05/20/the-21st-amendment-continues-to-choke-the-drinks-trade/

Pennsylvania’s bad beer regulation system lives on

Lew Bryson writes over at the R Street blog:

Eight years down the road, supermarket beer sales are changing the entire alcohol beverage sales category in Pennsylvania, and not for the better. Given our state’s comically byzantine alcohol laws, Pennsylvanians remain pathetically happy that some of us are now allowed to buy beer in supermarkets. If it seems remarkable that this has only happened some 70-odd years after Prohibition was repealed, a brief explanation of how beer is sold in Pennsylvania will only deepen your amazement. Here goes.

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/05/11/pennsylvanias-bad-beer-regulation-system-lives-on/

Nasty politics may kill drinks reform in Colorado

R Street's Kevin Kosar on recent events in Colorado:

Colorado loves its drinks. It is the home of Stranahan’s whiskey and great microbrews too numerous to list. The Rocky Mountain State also is the home of the Great American Beer Festival, which began in 1982 and draws tens of thousands of visitors each autumn.

So you might think that an initiative to improve consumers’ retail access to drinks would be a no-brainer for the state’s leaders – give the people what they want and they’ll vote you back into office.

Think again....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/05/06/nasty-politics-may-kill-drinks-reform-in-colorado/

Let’s end discrimination in the drinks market

R Street's Kevin Kosar:

Everyone has heard this basic truth many times: the amount of alcohol is the same in a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor, a 4 ounce glass of wine and a 12-ounce bottle of beer. Guzzle six shots in an hour and you’ll be drunk; slurp six glasses of wine or six bottles of beer and you’ll be equally smashed. That is common sense and indisputable math.

So why does the government treat spirits, wines and beers differently?...

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/05/05/lets-end-discrimination-in-the-drinks-market/

Let’s free the antique alcohol market

R Street's Kevin Kosar on freeing the antique alcohol market:

It seems like every month, I get an email or two from strangers asking me the same question. They read something like this: “Hi. My elderly father died, and when I was cleaning out his house to get it ready for sale, I found some very old looking bottles. Some of them are not open. Are they worth anything?”

Unfortunately, my response never is especially encouraging. There is, I inform them, no licit secondhand market for alcoholic beverages, for the most part. So, I cannot tell you what a bottle of Old Fitzgerald Bourbon from 1970 or a six-pack of Thomas Hardy Ale from 1995 would sell for. Sure, if you had a large and opulent collection of antique beverages, you might be able to get it assessed and sold by an auction house. But even for those lucky souls, it is a painstaking and time-consuming process.

It is a confounding situation, which means, of course, it was created by government....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/04/20/lets-free-the-antique-alcohol-market/

The Washington Post’s ‘Reefer Madness’ campaign against booze

R Street's Kevin Kosar responds to a Washington Post article:

I enjoy Christopher Ingraham’s writing for The Washington Post. His WonkBlog posts are data-heavy, which makes them interesting.

Like Ingraham, I have serious concerns about America’s long war on drugs. It strikes me as a losing battle, seeing as it is very hard to stop people from taking intoxicants that are so easy to produce. Worse, the war on drugs has encouraged law enforcement to undertake militaristic measures to thwart the illicit drug trade; measures like raiding individuals’ homes – then shooting their dogs and refusing to give back their property. Or sometimes even killing innocent people.

Intoxicants are like any other product, in that markets exist for them. Prohibition fosters illicit markets, which are highly profitable and therefore very violent. (Drug gangs slaughter other drug gangs to control market-share. Fast food companies do not.)

So, kudos to Ingraham for using data to make the case that American drug policy needs rethought. But for reasons unclear to me, Ingraham has started a war on alcohol....

Read more at http://www.rstreet.org/2016/04/04/the-washington-posts-reefer-madness-campaign-against-booze/