Wednesday, October 17, 2018

United States Supreme Court to Revisit the Issue of Interstate Wine and Spirits Shipping

United States Supreme Court

     For the first time in more than a decade, the U.S. government has shown a willingness to reevaluate how wine and spirits are sold, both within and between various states in the country.  In fact, the case of Tennessee Wine and Spirits Retailers Association v. Clayton Byrd (Tenn. v. Byrd) represents only the second such move by the high court since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.  When Prohibition was repealed, the U.S. government decided that the safest way to regulate alcohol sales was by giving each state the right to decide how wine and spirits were sold within its borders. That resulted in a fractured legal arrangement in which almost every state handled the sale and shipment of drinks differently.

     Whether major retailers will be able ship into adjoining states, or across the country, as a result of this case is the most important question that will be answered by the Court’s judgment. Its ruling will define consumer access to wine and potentially provide more competitive pricing.  Retailers may soon be able to ship into more states depending on how the court votes. This is all contingent on whether, “the case is upheld in the Supreme Court and if the states start to pass amendments to their direct shipping laws.”   “Retailers have long been saying this principle of nondiscrimination should apply to them as well as wineries. It seems to me impossible that the Court will not answer this question in the coming case. If the court applies the principles of Granholm to retailers, then many states will need to change their laws and decide if they want out-of-state retailers to ship.

     However, whatever changes the court case may bring will take some time to implement. “The change won’t be immediate. States would still need to adopt legislation and regulations to allow for shipping, delivery, and collection of taxes.” 

     The outcome of this case will make a huge difference in the wine, beer and spirits business.  For the consumer, it is a chance to get a hold of brands and expressions that have not been available to get in their home town or state.  I for one,  have to travel many miles to get some of the rums that I enjoy.  If it was like everything else in this country, that I need I just order it on line and it is delivered to me even here in Key West.