A New Challenge to Florida's Wall of Separation Law


Early last year, Florida lawmakers tried to repeal an antiquated state law requiring any grocery or chain store wishing to sell distilled spirits to do so in a separate retail location away from other products. The so-called “Whiskey and Wheaties” reform bill passed the state legislature, only to be vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. R Street testified in favor of the reform bill and wrote several op-eds on the issue (here and here). Large retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target have now initiated an administrative challenge in an effort to get the law overturned:

Target and Walmart are heading to court to get an administrative law judge to give them what Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t: The ability to sell whiskey and Wheaties in the same store. 

The big-box retailers late Monday filed an administrative challenge against the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages And Tobacco (ABT).

At issue: The state’s obscure, 24-year-old “Restaurant Rule,” which restricts eateries and other businesses that have ‘consumption on premises’ liquor licenses from selling anything other than items “customarily sold in a restaurant.” The plaintiffs say the rule is “not supported by logic or necessary facts.”

For over eight decades, Florida law — enacted after Prohibition — has required retailers to sell hard liquor in a separate store, though beer and wine can be sold in grocery aisles…

Read the rest here.

Cold Beer Sales Unlikely to Come to Indiana Anytime Soon


Over the last several years, pressure has grown for Indiana lawmakers to repeal the state’s notorious “warm beer law,” which prohibits gas stations and convenience stores from selling refrigerated beer. According to the Indianapolis Star, however, state legislators are unlikely to take up reform in the coming year:

Don't expect Indiana lawmakers to expand cold beer sales or allow happy hours next year. 

As a committee finishes a two-year project to recommend updates to the state's alcohol laws, it's clear splashy changes are off the table — at least for now.

That comes as no surprise. After finally voting to expand Sunday sales earlier this year, lawmakers signaled they were going to take a more conservative approach in the 2019 session…

Read more 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In 2016, Colorado made headlines for reforming some of its outdated alcohol laws, including allowing grocery stores to sell full-strength beer (covered here).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.


Protectionism Upheld in Missouri


The three-tier alcohol system often works to prevent dynamic delivery models, including shipping alcohol to consumers via mail. A court in Missouri recently dismissed a lawsuit seeking to allow out-of-state retailers to ship to Missouri consumers, citing the state's current alcohol distribution system: 

Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) today applauded a Missouri judge’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit that attempted to compel Missouri to let out-of-state retailers ship alcohol directly to Missouri residents, circumventing the state’s distribution system (Sarasota Wine Market v. Parson). The ruling reinforced the legitimacy and importance of the state’s system of beverage alcohol distribution and sale...

The ruling also noted that, 'to allow out-of-state retailers to ship directly to Missouri residents would not only burden in-state retailers, who would have to operate within the . . . system while out-of-state retailers could circumvent the Missouri regulatory system entirely, it would also violate the Twenty-first Amendment by undermining Missouri’s ‘unquestionably legitimate’ system.'"

Read the entire article here.

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


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.


Report: Michigan Wine Lovers Have No Access to 89% of Wines


As the growing crackdown on interstate wine shipments continues, the National Association of Wine Retailers has released an estimate that Michigan residents are barred from receiving nearly 90% of the wines available on the market today because of state restrictions:

"The increase in interstate wine shipment by wine retailers and wine stores over the past decade can be traced directly to 3 developments in the American economy:

1. A significant increase in the number and diversity of domestic and imported wine products in the U.S. marketplace

2. Increased access to information about these new and diverse wine products

3. New logistics and delivery technology allowing efficient delivery of wine products.

Yet while these developments increase the demand for interstate shipment of wine, they also throw into sharp relief the deficiencies of the now archaic wine distribution systems and laws still in effect in many states. Consumers realize they now have less access to the true American wine marketplace.

The state of Michigan is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Between January 1, 2014 and October 27, 2017, the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau —the federal agency that must approve wines for sale in the United States before they are sold—approved 405,513 wines for the American marketplace. Yet during that same time, the state of Michigan approved only 44,233 wines for sale in that state. This is barely 11% of the wines available nationwide. Put another way, 89% of wines available in the American marketplace are unavailable in Michigan..."

Read more here.