By Elizabeth Hans McCrone
“If all of the brokers and analysts are correct, we’re heading into another tough cycle for our wine industry,” predicts George Christie, President and CEO of the Healdsburg, CA based Wine Industry Network (WIN). “Tough times affect everyone, but the ones that appear to come though the most unscathed are those that stay ahead of the issues and focus on learning as much as possible from industry experts.”
Staying on top of the curve may be particularly important for the wine and alcoholic beverage industries, which are strictly controlled by a myriad of laws and regulations constantly in flux and made more complex by emerging technologies that influence the way business is being done.
Recognizing the critical importance of ongoing edification for wine industry professionals heading into 2020, the upcoming Annual North Coast Wine Industry Expo (WIN Expo) scheduled for Thursday, December 5, 2019, in Santa Rosa, CA will be presenting a conference seminar entitled “Navigating the Legal Landscape of Wine: Preparing for Changes in 2020.”
The session will zero in on legal topics relevant to wine business, including tied house rules, distributor and retailer relationships, gifts, and consignments and incentive programs, consumer events, offsite sales and social media regulations.
Bahaneh Hobel, a Partner at Dickenson, Peatman & Fogarty in Napa will lead the seminar discussion. Hobel heads up the firm’s Alcohol Beverage Law group and specializes in issues related to alcohol beverage laws and regulations for wineries, breweries, distilled spirit plants, importers, wholesalers and retailers. Her areas of expertise cover trade practices, festivals, celebrity brands, state and federal labeling regulations and approvals and more.
She says that many of the same issues the wine industry has dealt with in 2019 will still be a focus in the coming year, especially with ongoing concerns such as access to markets, DTC shipping, excise tax payments and changes coming down the pike regarding TTB labeling and advertising.
“The question is, essentially, how can you reach more customers in legal ways in a climate where the alcohol beverage laws are so restrictive?” Hobel points out. “My goal as always is for participants to understand the complications and to put these questions and issues on their radar so they are not caught unprepared.”
Hobel will also touch on recent decision by the Supreme Court in Tennessee Wine & Spirits Retailers Association v. Thomas. As Hobel explains, “Thomas held that Tennessee’s two-year durational-residency requirement applicable to retail liquor store license applicants violates the Commerce Clause and is not saved by the Twenty-First Amendment. In doing so, the Court confirmed that discrimination against out of state retailers was prohibited, leaving it to the states to either defend any discriminatory or protectionist alcohol beverage laws or amend their laws to provide equal treatment to in-state and out of state retailers.“
Hobel emphasizes that the ruling is especially relevant in given the effect it could potentially have on retailer direct shipping of wine. “In the long term, this might open the door to a lot more retailer direct shipping, but that remains to be seen.”
TTB labeling and advertising and streamlining licensing and approval requirements will also be on the conference session agenda.
“In the alcohol world, things are always changing, state by state,” Hobel notes. “There is never a ‘one size fits all’ answer.”
For more information on Bahaneh Hobel, “Navigating the Legal Landscape of Wine: Preparing for Changes in 2020” and conference registration information, go to wineindustryexpo.com.