Wine Retailers Seek Alcohol Shipping Compromise with 18 States
April 16, 2020
(Sacramento, CA)—The National Association of Wine Retailers this week delivered individual letters, and a message, to Attorneys General and the chief Alcohol Beverage regulators in 18 states. The letters articulate NAWR’s legal position and its advice to NAWR members about the states’ unconstitutional and unenforceable bans on interstate retailer shipments of wine to consumers in those states. NAWR offers a legislative solution to the 18 states’ unconstitutional shipping bans and proposes legislative collaboration as a preferable alternative to NAWR members’ justified defiance of states’ attempts to enforce protectionist and unconstitutional anti-shipping laws.
In the interests of transparency and collaboration, I’m writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) to inform you of a change in our Association’s legal policy and about a new set of recommendations we are giving to our retail members across the United States regarding the direct shipment of wine.
NAWR and its legal advisors have concluded that your state’s laws and regulations barring shipment of wine from out-of-state licensed retailers are both unconstitutional and unenforceable. This follows from the discriminatory nature of the legal ban on shipments into the state from licensed wine retailers.
Our legal advisors have carefully reviewed the 2019 U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Tennessee Wine v Thomas and the Court’s 2005 Granholm v Heald decision. Based on the stark and explicit non-discrimination principles found in these two decisions, the ban on wine shipments from out-of-state licensed wine retailers in your state is unconstitutional and unenforceable.
NAWR informed its member retailers of this analysis. We urged them to respond with equal respect for state laws and their right to operate unencumbered by violations of their constitutional rights. Regardless, it is likely if you attempt enforcement of the unconstitutional wine shipping laws our more assertive members may defy calls to respect your blatantly unconstitutional laws or may seek direct challenges in federal court (which would include recovery of their attorneys’ fees).
While NAWR has concluded that your ban on wine shipments from out-of-state licensed retailers is unenforceable and unconstitutional, the NAWR board also recognizes the importance and preferability of shipments of wine into your state being accomplished under a recognized and legally adopted regulatory scheme. This benefits NAWR members and state alcohol regulators alike.
Attached is a Model Retailer Direct Shipping Bill for your consideration and analysis. Its details and provisions meet the regulatory and revenue needs of your state, provide for consumers’ well-regulated access to the wines they have regularly asked our members to ship them, and meets the needs of out-of-state retailers, who prefer to operate under a constitutional regulatory scheme that is neither discriminatory nor protectionist.
A well-regulated system of direct shipment of wine from out-of-state wine retailers contributes to the health and safety of your residents. We look forward to the opportunity to discuss legislation like this Model Bill with you and are at your disposal to answer questions you may have.
Tom Wark, Executive Director
National Association of Wine Retailers
The above letter was sent to Attorneys General and chief alcohol regulators in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF WINE RETAILERS
The NAWR represents independent fine wine retailers located across the United States. NAWR members seek the creation of a fair, level and well-regulated playing field for the sale and delivery of wine and oppose through litigation and legislation discriminatory and protectionist state laws. For more information on NAWR see http://www.nawr.org.