Open Letter to State Liquor Administrators

The following letter was sent to the National Association of State Liquor Administrators and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association:

quoteIs now the moment for the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association to follow the recommendation of the Wine & Spirit Wholesalers Association and attempt to prejudice the outcome of the Empire Wine case in New York? I, on behalf of the Board of the National Association of Wine Retailers, suggest that not only is this not the time for such an intrusive and damaging action, but that commonsense and deference to the fundamental idea of due process dictate that there is never a good time to attempt prejudice the outcome of a case.

It is common knowledge that the WSWA has actively reached out to the NCSLA, NABCA and individual state alcohol regulators around the country urging them the speak out in favor of the New York State Liquor Authority and its actions against Empire Wines. In fact, WSWA president and CEO Craig Wolf publicly scolded the NCSLA and NABCA in his address to its recent convention for NCSLA and NABCA’s lack of public support for the NYSLA’s actions against Empire Wine.

As yet, no state has charged Empire Wine with doing anything illegal. Nor has any state pursued litigation against Empire Wine for alleged illegal shipments. Currently the NYSLA is involved in a very controversial disciplinary hearing concerning Empire Wine that touches on significant constitutional issues. Investigative media reporting has demonstrated that the origins of this case against Empire Wine did not happen as the NYSLA’s chairman claimed they originated.

If the issues inherent in this case are to be tackled in a fair and impartial way, this will only happen if outside groups consisting of state employees like the NCSLA and NABCA do not attempt to prejudice the proceedings and outcome by taking the advice of an interested party such as WSWA and weighing in without full knowledge of the issues and facts.

Reputations of people and organizations take a long time to build, but can be sullied and destroyed in a moment given the wrong action. The WSWA’s suggestion that NSCLA and NABCA weigh in on the Empire Case without the facts ever having been laid out, let alone any licensee every being found to have violated any law, is exactly the kind of action that damages reputations of organizations and needlessly prejudices the outcome of the case in question.

The Board of Directors of the NAWR urges you to disregard the advice of the WSWA and not weigh in on the Empire Wine Case. Doing so would have the impact of interfering with the ongoing proceedings, prejudicing the outcome of the current proceedings and likely damage the reputation that NCSLA and NABCA have built over many decades.


Tom Wark, Executive Director
National Association of Wine Retailers