For Immediate Release: June 11, 2015

Michigan Consumers Lose and Booze Middlemen Win As Sensible Wine Bill Languishes in Committee

—Sensible Direct Wine Shipping Bill Would Give Consumers
Access to Thousands of Wines and Fill State Coffers With Tax Revenue—

(Lansing, Michigan)—A bill that would give Michigan wine consumers access to thousands of wines the state’s wholesalers won’t distribute in the state and hence consumers can’t obtain, appears dead in the House Regulatory Reform committee at the behest of the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association. After four months since being introduced and with pressure applied by the state’s wine and beer wholesalers association, Representative Ken Yonker’s bill allowing consumers to have wine shipped to them from in-state and out-of-state wine stores can’t even get a hearing despite the fact that the bill would differ in no way from the law that allows consumers to have wine shipped from wineries.

HB 4125 would allow consumers to have wine shipped to them from out of state wine stores in exactly the same way they obtain wine shipped from out-of-state wineries. Taxes would be paid to the state on shipped wine, out of state retailers would be required to get a signature at time of delivery and out-of-state retailers would agree to be subject to Michigan legal jurisdiction.

However, local wholesaler middlemen have incorrectly and cynically told lawmakers that allowing Michigan consumers to purchase wines from out of state wine stores would disrupt the “three tier system”, an alcohol distribution system in place since repeal of Prohibition that assures wholesalers are shielded from competition and receive a cut of every bottle of wine sold in the state. In fact, Michigan’s Three Tier System is alive and wine even with the identical and legal winery direct shipment.

Due to Michigan consumers being barred from having wine shipped from out of state wine stores and retailers the following consequences result:

•  An unconstitutional for of economic discrimination aimed at French, German, Italian, Spanish and all other imported wines which may not be shipped into the state from their only source (retailers), while all domestic wines may be shipped

• Consumers are banned from receiving wines from “Wine of the Month” clubs since all such clubs are categorized as retailers

• The vast majority of Kosher wines sold in the U.S., sold primarily by wine stores and retailers outside Michigan, are unavailable to Michigan’s Jewish community

• A ban on the shipment of collectible, investment grade and rare wines that are sold by auction houses, which are categorized as retailers

• The creation of a black market in wine due to some consumers ignoring the ban on retailer-to-consumer shipping and finding a way to obtain the wines they want

• Lost tax revenue by not licensing out-of-state retailers to ship and collecting sales tax.

“Representative Yonker’s bill is sensible and follows exactly the same guidelines that have allowed Michigan consumers to have wine shipped to them from out-of-state wineries and that has resulted in no negative impact on the three tier system, no problems with minors obtaining wine via shipping and that has provided the state with needed tax revenue,” said Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers.

Wark also noted, “Representative Yonker’s wine shipping bill has no impact at all on Michigan’s Three Tier System of Alcohol distribution. We know that direct shipping benefits consumers and the state tax coffers without altering the way wine is sold in Michigan in any way.”

At this point, Michigan wine consumers, free traders and retailers inside and outside of Michigan can only hope HB 4125 will at least get a hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee where its pros and cons can be discussed, rather than seeing the bill’s sensible reforms and consumer interests ignored.

About the National Association of Wine Retailers
The National Association of Wine Retailers represents wine retailers and wine stores nationwide. NAWR advocates for alcohol laws and regulations that more accurately reflect the realities of a 21st century alcohol beverage marketplace. For more information visit www.nawr.org

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CONTACT:
Tom Wark, Executive Director, National Association of Wine Retailers
707-266-1449 • tom@nawr.org