—National Association of Wine Retailers Calls on Legislature to Put A Stop to Commission’s Gangster Tactics—
(CONCORD, New Hampshire)—The National Association of Wine Retailer’s (NAWR) Executive Director Tom Wark issued the following statement today in response to the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s unilateral decision to end wine shipments to consumers.
“Without warning, without explanation and in clear defiance of the legislature, the New Hampshire Liquor Commission has begun denying direct wine shipping permits to all out-of-state wine retailers and wine clubs. This is a clear abuse of power and a usurpation of legislative powers. The arbitrary shipping permit denials began in February just as the Legislature began deliberating upon and ultimately rejecting the Liquor Commission’s bill that requested all out-of-state retailers be forbidden from shipping into the state—after having been allowed to do so for more than a decade.
GANGSTER TACTICS USED BY NH LIQUOR COMMISSION
“Using gangster tactics, the Liquor Commission is now doing on its own what the legislature clearly prevented them from doing by rejecting the Commission’s bill, SB 353. Furthermore, it is doing so without offering any explanation or reason to the retailers who are being denied wine shipping permits. It’s reminiscent of the bootlegger and gangster tactics during Prohibition.
“Since February, when hundreds of New Hampshire consumers wrote to Senate Commerce Committee members asking them to reject SB 353 and when NAWR began pushing back against the punitive bill, the Liquor Commission, in what can only be called a vindictive and likely illegal act, been denying out-of-state retailers both new and renewals of direct shipping permits.
“Both out-of-state wineries and out-of-state retailers are by law (RSA 178:22) granted the right to obtain direct shipper licenses. While both wineries and wine retailers have routinely been given these permits for over a decade, now the Liquor Commission is acting arbitrarily by denying permits to wine retailers. This action will result in New Hampshire consumers having far less access to wines they cannot find in the Commission’s state stores and the loss of nearly $300,000 in tax revenue paid annually by out-of-state retailers.
“The Liquor Commission likely understands that its actions contravene the will of the Legislature as demonstrated by events of May 3. On May 3rd a Senate floor amendment to HB1626 was introduced at the behest of the Liquor Commission that would radically change the direct wine shipping law in the State. Introduced by Senator Soucy, the amendment would only allow retailers in the 13 other states that allow retailer-to-consumer shipments to obtain New Hampshire direct shipping permits and ship to New Hampshire consumers.
“Rather than penalize the Liquor Commission for it’s arbitrary and capricious acts taken since February, the Soucy Amendment seeks to reward what can now clearly be called an act of blackmail on the part of the Commission: Either adopt this new anti-consumer, anti-competitive direct shipping rule or we will deny direct shipping permits to all out-of-state retailers and deny New Hampshire residents from purchasing any wines from out-of-state wine clubs and wine stores.
“The National Association of Wine Retailers is urging the Committee of Conference where HB1626 is being negotiated to reject this kind of cynical ploy and instead adopt and recommend a bill that restricts the Liquor Commission from ever again abusing their power in the way they have since February.”
The National Association of Wine Retailers is a national trade organization representing independent fine wine retailers. NAWR advocates for free trade in wine retail sales and a level, fair and well-regulated playing field for all wine retailers across the country. For more information see http://www.nawr.org