View Full Version : Supreme Court to consider interstate sales issue

05-26-2004, 09:10
As you may have read, the US Supreme Court has announced it will consider recent U.S. Court of Appeals decisions which challenged New York's and Michigan's bans on interstate, direct-to-consumer wine shipments.

Legally, this case is interesting because ordinarily the commerce clause of the constitution is used to promote a national market, in which protectionist state laws are prohibited. This comes into conflict with the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition and gave the states broad authority to regulate alcohol sales.

It is expected that arguments for the case will be held in December.

By the way, the lawyer for "our" side is none other than Ken Starr, who did so much for cigar marketing.

The other side is represented by the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America which, of course, wants to protect us from "the unregulated, unaccountable and anonymous sales and distribution of alcohol." (Woooo, scary.)

Furthermore, their spokesperson said, "We believe the Supreme Court will use this opportunity to let states know that they have the right to protect their communities, safeguard their children and track sales and distribution of alcohol within their borders. In recent years, the influential, billion-dollar wine industry has been waging an aggressive campaign to deregulate alcohol sales. That's because many within the wine industry place soaring profits ahead of sound public policy, with no concern for kids, communities or common sense. We agree with the vast majority of states that deregulating alcohol is a bad idea. We look forward to a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that once and for all resolves this issue and reaffirms a state's right under the Constitution and federal law to protect its citizens against alcohol anarchy."

I couldn't resist quoting the whole thing, it's such a hoot. I love it when the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America gets all hot and sweaty about protecting children.

I hearby announce the formation of my special interest group, Americans for Alcohol Anarchy.

05-26-2004, 10:00
Unless Ken learned a lot the last time, I guess a huge bill for his work and very little else is what we can expect.

They are showing compassion for the children, cry me a river. I'm sure they would need to go far from their own neighborhoods to find them, lets face it, in some quarters neglected children are as common as stray cats. In other words if they want to address that problem, they didn't have to wait for this.

Thanks for the heads up, Chuck. It will be something to watch for in December.

05-26-2004, 11:29
It looks to me like even if "we" win, all that would
accomplish is to give Congress the power to regulate
interstate alcohol commerce. Anything could happen
then... right now the Congress is business friendly,
but anti-"sin". So it's a tough call. My guess is
that they'll either do something immediately or
they'll do nothing at all. They could very easily
pass a law that merely copies the text of the 21st

Tim Dellinger

05-26-2004, 13:53

I saw this article also. Protecting against underage drinking is as ever a comical situation. Nothing wrong though if our underage children place an internet order, have it shipped to the distributor, then to the retailer, whom both take their profits. They just have to get their older siblings to pick up the order.

Plus the distributors help stabilize prices and prevent monopolies. Right, just ask the out-of-state mom-and-pop winery how they feel about trying to ship into the protective states.

Heck, just ask our fellow law-breaking bourbonites who try to ship interstate.

It's time for a change. These laws were set up in 1931?

05-26-2004, 14:13
Lew Bryson's latest online monthly 'blog entry argues
that ending the three tier distribution system will be
trouble for small breweries:


I disagree, of course.

Tim Dellinger

05-26-2004, 22:10
I hearby announce the formation of my special interest group, Americans for Alcohol Anarchy.

I hereby nominate Chuck our first Grand Poobah with all the rights and privileges the office entails. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bowdown.gif

Do we get to wear funny hats and robes at the meetings and make new members drink Cabin Still from a cup fashioned from a bull's sac? Oh, that would be wrong on many levels now wouldn't it? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

05-27-2004, 10:25
A (perhaps misplaced here) defense of Ken Starr, not necessarily of his most recent government work (when you're stuck with a lousy job you get -- well, a lousy job):
Starr is about as experienced a Supreme Court litigator as there is, having argued both against and for the U.S. government's interests (the latter as Solicitor General for some time). His record is enviable in front of that body.

05-27-2004, 11:15
I hearby announce the formation of my special interest group, Americans for Alcohol Anarchy.

Sign us up!

At the risk of revealing too much, I remember a lot of ways to acquire alcohol underage before the days of the internet. I would suspect that, where legal, internet purchases account for an insignificant amount of underage purchases, and I'm sure that data has got to be available somewhere.

"But what about the children?" is such a reliable catch phrase when government and/or business are trying to limit our liberties for tyranny or profit. Hopefully, it won't work this time.

05-27-2004, 14:55
Actually, everything I can think of for this group to do, most of us are doing already.

05-29-2004, 13:51
Sign me up for Anarchy, too! I have already written my politicians about this and other liquor laws that need changing. This is all about makin' money on both sides of the argument and sure ain't about "the children."

I think the arguments before the Supreme Court will focus more on wineries shipping directly to consumers. If you are out in California, for example, and visit a winery, it's illegal to have a case shipped home to NY. Yet, you can visit a winery in NY and have a case shipped to your home. A bit of unfair commerce, many out of state wineries feel.

There's a ton of small wineries that end up at a disadvantage. I have the darndest time getting small wineries bottles into my store that aren't with a distributor. Distributors don't want to mess with tiny, family-owned properties, typically. There are a lot of small distributors trying to focus on artisanal producers, but as a small business, they can't financially take on all the small producers. The system is broke.

Retailers and wholesalers feel threatened with the idea of having wineries ship directly to customers. I'm one of the few that am happy to see people get the wines they want without a lot of added middle people. It's not gonna hurt my business. Folks will still stop by on their way home to dinner, will still buy special gifts, etc.

I think liquor across state lines will still be a problem even if we can get some clarification on the wine issue. Liquor is still viewed as a greater evil across the country. I know that most retailers will ship wine with much less caution than booze. I don't think the courts are gonna be convinced that liquor across state lines is a commerce clause issue.

Hey, we've come a long way so maybe laws will continue changing. We can now sell alcohol on Sundays in New York, although the State says retailers have to close at least one day a week. Funny that any other industry can foster workaholics, but the State thinks I should have a day of rest.

05-29-2004, 14:35
Well let's just hope that some relief comes our way. I , for one, do place some internet orders and go out of state to have some whiskies sent back to Maryland. However all of these orders are for products either unavailable or unobtainable ( due to what I call distributor favoritism ) in my state. I support my local retailers and do not want to take any profits away from them.

Why can't the laws be amended to allow for a limited amount of such purchases. If the distributors refuse to carry certain products or if small production whiskies cannot be effectively marketed , then this could be a way for us to obtain them.

05-29-2004, 17:25
I live in Ohio and our "State Stores" can only sell hard liquor on a Cash-Only basis, because they are "middle-man" representatives of the State, passing on the liquor for the money (and, they say, not much profit). If a check or credit card bounces, they are stuck with the loss

For me, it is inconvenient to go get a couple hundred dollars, cash, when I want to buy some bourbon or whatever. Also, they don't have the selection because they can only get what the State has a contract to buy.

For that reason, I look towards Kentucky, where they will sell you anything on credit and have just about anything you could want, including most bourbons. (Kentucky... Bourbon... see any connection?)

Until my state figures out why it isn't selling more liquor around its borders with other states...

Another example of an arcane law! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/banghead.gif

05-29-2004, 17:31
Well, Ohio is now at least partially deregulated. Are there still any actual "state stores"? I know in Mansfield, where I'm from, the stores are privately owned but the state still sets the prices. That, it was explained to me, is why they won't accept credit cards. It's not prohibited, but since the prices are fixed nobody wants to incur the expense of the credit card fees. The store in Mansfield, however, does take debit cards.

05-29-2004, 17:41
Out of habit I call them "State Stores" to distinquish them from supermarkets, which can sell beer and wine, but not high-proof liquor. (They are now selling lower proof liquor, though.)

They are Mom and Pop stores, so they are, in fact, the result of deregulation, as you mentioned. All the ones around me, in Cincinnati, will not take a check or credit card. I hope that situation changes in the future, if Mansfield is an example of what things could be like. I hope so, anyway.

05-29-2004, 18:20
They take debit cards, still no credit cards nor checks, so it's not much better.

05-29-2004, 19:13
Iím leaving a control state MS and moving to LA where you can buy Blantonís at the grocery store. It does not make any sense.

Very near the end of prohibition my grandfather took a paper route in Chicago. The first week he did not get paid as they held his dime to pay for his news bag. The next week on top of his papers announcing the end of prohibition was a silver dime. Gramps picked up the dime and walked into a bar and got a beer. I do not know if he delivered the papers but it is assumed that was the end of his newspaper career. He could not have been 10 years old.

When I was in my teens in East Texas if you had money and knew what you wanted you could buy it. I bought cheap bourbon or beer most of the time. Of course you could buy smokes too and you only put a seat belt on if you wanted to. Our government is going to protect us from us even if they cannot protect us from real danger.

05-30-2004, 05:42
For that reason, I look towards Kentucky, where they will sell you anything on credit and have just about anything you could want, including most bourbons. (Kentucky... Bourbon... see any connection?)

Hell, even in Kentucky there are over 70 counties that are dry. Some counties allow at restaurants and golf courses and nowhere else. Some cities within dry counties sell liquor...it's just nuts http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/horseshit.gif

05-31-2004, 18:20
Sorry, Chuck, but the Americans for Alcohol Anarchy ("AAA") is already taken and was already attempted. We know it more commonly as Prohibition (or the Volstead Act). Was there ever a time with more anarchy among Americans to get alcohol?