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Wine Retailers Back Legal Action Against Restrictive Alcohol Distribution Laws

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National Wine Retailers Association Urges Attorneys General to Resolve Lawsuits, Including Newly Filed New York Case

September 18th (Sacramento, CALIF)—The National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) welcomes and supports the recently filed lawsuits challenging discriminatory alcohol distribution laws in a number of states. The challenged discriminatory and protectionist laws banning self-distribution from out-of-state producers to in-state retailers prevent these retailers from offering consumers access to the increasing diversity of beers, wines, and spirits produced across the country. 

Most recently, New York’s discriminatory self-distribution law was challenged in Federal Court. New York allows wine stores to bypass wholesalers in the state and purchase wines directly from New York wineries. However, New York retailers are barred from buying directly from out-of-state wineries, violating the Dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution and violating the holdings of two Supreme Court decisions. The protectionist law not only unnecessarily limits New York wine stores, but also curtails consumers’ access to a diverse range of wines from across the country.

ATTORNEYS GENERAL URGED TO SETTLE LAWSUITS

NAWR urges Attorneys General in states where suits have been filed to follow the lead of Oregon where a similar federal lawsuit was recently settled, rather than saddling its tax-payers with a costly and ultimately futile attempt to defend an unconstitutional law. NAWR urges Attorneys General to heed the holdings of the Supreme Court in Granholm v Heald in which the court declared the U.S. Constitution “did not give States the authority to pass nonuniform laws in order to discriminate against out-of-state goods, a privilege they never enjoyed.”

Lawsuits challenging discriminatory and protectionist self-distribution laws have recently been filed in:

“Consumers, producers, and retailers deserve a modernized alcohol regulatory system that better serves today’s marketplace and consumers, unlike the current system established nearly a century ago for a different tame and economy,” noted Tom Wark, Executive Director of NAWR. “Without reform, the alcohol distribution system will continue to favor the economic interests of an oligopoly of wholesalers while harming the alcohol industry and punishing consumers who deserve access to the extraordinary diversity of products available across the country that they are too commonly barred from accessing by archaic and protectionist laws.”

Twice in the past two decades the Supreme Court has unequivocally declared that states may not enact protectionist laws that discriminate against out-of-state businesses. The 2005 Granhom v Heald and 2019 Tennessee Wine v Thomas decisions both found unconstitutional state alcohol laws aimed at giving a competitive advantage to in-state businesses—which is exactly what the laws being challenged in these suits do. 

NAWR supports these recent lawsuits as necessary to overturn archaic and protectionist laws that harm the alcohol industry and consumers.

ABOUT NAWR

The National Association of Wine Retailers is the leading advocate for a twenty-first-century approach to alcohol regulation that doesn’t punish consumers based on where they live and for fostering a wine marketplace in which retailers can do business unencumbered by an archaic deference to an oligopoly of politically connected middlemen wholesalers.NAWR represents licensed brick-and-mortar retailers, online retailers, wine clubs, and auction houses across the country. For more information see www.nawr.org.

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