Wine

Connecticut Lawmakers Try to Legalize Self-Service Beer Bars

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Self-service beer bars have grown in popularity in recent years as customers enjoy the experience of being able to pour their own brew from a tap. Numerous states still prohibit this type of self-service , however. According to WTNH.com, Connecticut lawmakers may finally legalize self-service for wine and beer in the Nutmeg State:

Imagine getting your beer or glass of wine like you would a fountain soda.  It may soon be a reality in Connecticut

The bill that would allow self-service alcohol machines at bars just got the thumbs up from the House of Representatives. 

You would get a card from the bartender and swipe it at the machine…

Read more here.


California Tries to Legalize Wine (and Beer) Volunteers Based on R Street Recommendation

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Small wineries and breweries throughout the country often use volunteers to help produce and package their products. Doing so both supplies these small producers with extra labor and allows the volunteers (who are often craft beverage enthusiasts) to learn more about the production process. In California, however, the use of volunteers is technically a violation of the state’s labor code, and the state’s Department of Industrial Relations has previously slapped hefty fines on California wineries for using volunteers. R Street’s Western Region Director Steven Greenhut wrote about this issue back in 2014, and now, directly inspired by Steve’s column, state lawmakers are trying to fix the problem. Their new bill would exempt small wineries and microbreweries from this provision of the state labor code, and Steve submitted a letter of support on behalf of R Street for the reform:

I write you in support of S.B. 448, legislation that “would exempt a small winery or small microbrewery … that utilizes volunteers who perform part-time labor in exchange for hands-on training, from having these volunteers classified as employees or apprentices.”

These small wineries and breweries clearly deserve an exemption from this section of the labor code given that many people like the opportunity to volunteer at these businesses to learn about the trade. Such volunteers typically are older people who enjoy the wine and brewery culture. They aren’t interested in the money, but in learning about the fascinating process of making wine and beer. In fact, I’ve volunteered at a winery before with my church group where we picked grapes and made our own wine as part of an indescribably enjoyable afternoon…

Read the letter of support here, and Steve’s 2014 column that inspired the law here.

R Street's Jarrett Dieterle Interviewed About Nebraska Alcohol Taxes

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Nebraska’s legislature is considering increasing taxes on beer, wine, and spirits in an effort to raise more revenue and provide property tax relief. The Heartland Institute interviewed R Street’s Jarrett Dieterle about the proposal:

Local craft breweries that produce small volumes of beer are growing in popularity nationally and in Nebraska, says Jarrett Dieterle, director of commercial freedom policy at the R Street Institute.

“The craft beverage industry is booming cross the country,” said Dieterle. “In 2017, craft breweries created the second-most manufacturing jobs of any industry in America.

“Nebraska is no exception,” Dieterle said. “Nebraska has 3.5 breweries per 100,000 people, which puts it in the top 15 states for breweries per capita. Overall, breweries had a $465 million economic impact in the state.”

The craft beer industry will shrink if Nebraska moves forward with this tax hike, says Dieterle.

“Research has demonstrated that increasing taxes on products like beer can lead to a decrease in brewpubs and breweries in a state,” said Dieterle…

Governments shouldn’t focus on a specific product category to increase revenue, says Dieterle.

“Generally, state and local governments fund their operations through a combination of property, income, and sales taxes,” said Dieterle. “Singling out the alcohol industry to bear the brunt of revenue-generation in the state makes little sense,” Dieterle said…

Read the whole article here.

Bourbon Left Out of Kentucky Alcohol Delivery Bill

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Kentucky may be known for bourbon, but its lawmakers may leave the state’s flagship spirit out of their latest round of alcohol reform efforts. Last year, Kentucky made news by passing legislation that allows visitors to visit Kentucky distilleries and then have booze shipped to their homes. This year, a bill allowing consumers to purchase alcohol online and have it delivered may exclude bourbon altogether, according to WAVE 3 News:

Those at the Kentucky Distillers’ Association would probably tell you a lot of things are better with bourbon, but it’s not just barbecue sauce and bourbon balls. Now, they want to see a shot of the spirit included in Senate Bill 99.

Distillers said they feel left out of a bill that would allow wineries to ship online and electronic orders straight to your door.

KDA leadership said current language doesn't allow bourbon producers to do the same thing.

President Eric Gregory said HB 400, passed last year, does allow distillers to ship if people buy on site, but if they go home and want more bourbon he said they're out of luck.

Right now, SB 99 would allow for each person to receive up to 24 cases of wine from a seller annually. Bourbon is excluded…

Read the rest here.

Mississippi Considers New Wine Shipping Bills

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Mississippi is currently in the vast minority of states that does not allow outside wine shipments to in-state residents. According to WLOX, the state legislature is at least considering changing that:

Two bills are under consideration in state legislative committees that would allow direct sales and shipment of wine to Mississippi residents.

Members of both the House and Senate have authored bills, and local liquor stores are lobbying against them.

Similar measures failed last year…

Mississippi is among a handful of states that doesn’t allow wine to be shipped. All wine and liquor goes through the Revenue Department’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division.

Read more here.

Why Does N.C. Have More Wineries Than Distilleries?

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Despite our nation being in the midst of a craft spirits boom, North Carolina has only 57 active distilleries in the state compared to its 168 wineries and 300-plus breweries. Why? As Jon Sanders for the John Locke Foundation explains, the answer is different regulatory regimes for distilled spirits vs. beer/wine:

At the beginning of the 20th century, North Carolina was the nation’s leader in wine production. North Carolina was also the nation’s leader in legal distilleries (with 745 registered distilleries, 540 that were operating). These legal industries were killed off by statewide prohibition in 1908.

After Prohibition was lifted (federal and state), the North Carolina ABC system was created to keep tight control over liquor. State government controlled wholesale distribution, and local governments controlled retail sales. (Even for a control state, that’s weird.)…

North Carolina didn’t see its first new distillery until 2005. Now there are 57 local distilleries in North Carolina.

In the meantime, wine (which had been placed under the purview of the ABC system in the late 1950s) was regulated under a relatively freer system. My colleague Jon Guze’s report describes many problems with the state’s three-tiered distribution system, but even with its flaws, it’s not nearly as restrictive as how North Carolina regulates liquor…

So wineries began coming back to North Carolina about when Prohibition ended, albeit very slowly at first. Faster growth was seen after reductions in state winery license fees and wine taxes were passed in 1972. By 2000, there were already 21 established local wineries. Now there are 168 local wineriesin North Carolina…

The entire piece is worth a read and can be found 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.



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.

New Effort to Reform New Jersey Wine Shipping Laws

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Under New Jersey law, wineries that produce over 250,000 gallons a year are prohibited from selling directly to consumers in the Garden State. This law applies to both in-state and out-of-state wineries, and according to the Philadelphia Business Journal, New Jersey liquor store owners are the main opponents of reform:

A coalition calling itself Free the Grapes is pushing legislation that would allow major wine producers to ship bottles of their alcoholic libations directly to consumers in New Jersey.

Right now, the most prolific producers of wine are barred from shipping their products to individual buyers in the Garden State…

But the N.J. Liquor Store Alliance, which represents the retail side of the industry, is telling them to put a cork in it…

Read the whole article here.