HR 5034, whereby we give more power to spirit wholesalers and hose niche producers


Yay, let’s cement one of the worst parts of the wine and beer industry, the 3 tier system. Let’s give more power to the big guys and say blow off to the little ones. Great idea.

The liquor distribution model in the US is pretty ridiculous, and the way it’s set up makes it difficult for smaller volume makers and small volume sellers to do business. That’s not to mention the roadblocks that prevent Joe Oenophile from ordering some stuff straight from his favorite niche winery.

Some reading:

Statement from Cali Winemakers
Blog post by the head of the Specialty Wine Retailer Association
Take action: Send a letter to your congresspeople

That acronym you are using. I do not think it means what you think it means.

It’s a Daily Show joke.

Fucking hell. I had to deal with this shit firsthand when I tried to obtain some wine years ago. I couldn’t order it through the winery and had to go through some local shop who, while being as courteous as possible, still managed to fuck up the order because the distributor wouldn’t ship them the right year. The difference between the two years was an entirely different continent.* Not even close to the same wine. Now, if I had lived in a different state, I wouldn’t have had that problem. In Nebraska, if you can’t get it through one of three distributors, you won’t get it at all.

This bill implies that this fucked up situation is perfectly fine.

*Terra Rosa. They started moving it from Argentina to California in between the wine that I had in the restaurant (1999?) to the wine that I had ordered (2001?). Now they do some sort of combination of the two, but I haven’t bothered with the wine since moving to Ohio.

I don’t really understand what this bill would change. Anything?

How much wine do you currently buy online?

That’s kind of my point; I’m already prohibited from buying any wine or beer or liquor online because it’s illegal to ship those things to Pennsylvania. So how exactly does this bill make it even worse?

More or less it starts bringing other states down closer to the level of completely-fucked-up-edness that PA already has.

So for us, not much change. On the other hand, we’d no longer be able to hope that things get less broken here.

Indeed, this is a bad thing. We do NOT want the PA model everywhere.

The three tier distribution system definitely needs to go. For a fairly in-depth look at it, watch the documentary Beerwars (available streaming on Netflix)

I don’t want to go overboard on generalizations but the guys they interview from the distribution networks look like they walked straight off of the set of The Sopranos. Draw your own conclusions.

How, though? This is a federal law. The article says that it puts more power in the hands of the states, but if PA has the ability to regulate it to the degree that it does, that means that other states already do too, right? So if any other state wanted to start emulating the PA system, the only things stopping them (if anything at all) are their own state laws, as far as I can tell.

The Commerce Clause that this bill negates* basically forbids states from making it harder to get out of state alcohol. Without that commerce clause, legislators can and will pass laws that will favor the big distributors and force small breweries/wineries to drastically decrease their distribution area.

*for alcohol distribution between states only

Edit: Unless I’m misreading the wording, it looks like this will also make importing alcohol regulated per state. You can kiss that German beer goodbye.

The PA model is also what we have in Michigan, effectively. A wine producer has to put up a huge chunk of money before the state will allow them to ship into the state directly. Otherwise, they have to go through distributors.

My solution? We drive to Canada and get whatever we want. As long as it is for personal use, its not a problem.

That’s PA’s fault. Do you want to enshrine PA’s ridiculous liquor laws on this nation? If you do, then we have nothing to talk about here.

Of course not, I was just asking what barrier to setting up a PA-type system exists for other states that this bill would tear down.

So here’s the actual bill:

Most of it appears to be sentimental (“It is the policy of Congress that each State or territory shall continue to have the primary authority to regulate alcoholic beverages”), but the one substantive thing seems to be Sec. 4, which basically says that states no longer have to treat out-of-state alcoholic beverages the same as in-state ones. However, it also says this: “However, State or territorial regulations may not facially discriminate, without justification, against out-of-state producers of alcoholic beverages in favor of in-state producers,” which seems to nullify most of the practical outcomes of the other thing, depending on how “justification” is interpreted by the courts.

So basically, a bill we’re probably better off without, but one that doesn’t really seem poised to make much of a practical difference. It won’t allow or encourage states to set up ultra-restrictive policies regarding alcohol; they’re already allowed to do that if they want to. At worst, we’ll see “tariffs” on out-of-state products, which would suck, but again, that would require a pretty extreme ruling from a judge.

It’s not that it’s setting up more restrictions, it’s that it’s removing them. Changing the wording of that amendment will make it a lot harder to prevent the big companies from monopolizing distribution. That one clause has been the thread that holds the barn door closed, so to speak.