Category archives for “Alcohol Beverage Law”

Off-Premise Retail Caps - Are They Constitutional?

May 02, 2017

A South Carolina law preventing an entity from holding an interest in more than three off-premise retail liquor licenses was deemed unconstitutional earlier this year. The South Carolina Supreme Court accepted an argument by Total Wines & More that the state’s cap on liquor stores had no legitimate basis. Numerous bills had been filed with the state legislature over recent years to have the cap overturned, but without success. The Supreme Court majority, however, found that the state had not offered a persuasive argument on why the restriction was a proper use of its general police power. The only justification provided by the state in the case was that the law was designed to support small businesses, and preserve the right of small, independent liquor dealers to do business, which the court identified as simple economic protectionism.

A number of other states have caps on ownership of retail off-premise liquor licenses, particularly across the Northeast. Similar laws have survived constitutional challenges in states like New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. In these states, justifications for these laws have included reasons such as intensifying the dangers of liquor sales stimulation through retail concentration, preventing monopolies, avoiding indiscriminate price-cutting and excessive advertising, and discouraging absentee ownership. The success of the suit in South Carolina is likely to encourage a new wave of challenges to these laws, as the chain stores focus more efforts on expansion of their model in the region. The ongoing legislative and judicial dispute between Total Wine & More and the State of Connecticut, for example, on the statutory minimum pricing restrictions there, follows a similar path of seeking to open up a market more friendly to chain store liquor retail.

Since the decision was handed down on March 29, the South Carolina Senate has already approved a move to legislate around it, by passing an amendment to the state budget. The change would delay the implementation of the court’s decision for a year, and would require an applicant for a fourth store to pay the equivalent of a year’s gross sales from one of its current stores before it could get the new license. The amendment now passes to the General Assembly for consideration. In the interim, the state has publicly said
that they are accepting liquor store applications in light of the new ruling.

It goes without saying that the elimination of the retail cap in South Carolina is likely to significantly alter the retail liquor landscape there, and that other similar decisions in other states would affect the retail market nationwide. If you want more information on retail liquor licensing, please contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.


California ABC Announces 2016 New License Authorizations

August 15, 2016

It’s that time of year when the ABC announces priority applications, and this year’s numbers are sure to make a lot of retail business owners very happy! Every year the California ABC announces which counties are eligible for new on-sale and off-sale general licenses based on population growth versus existing license ratios within each county. The 2016 figures have been released, and the numbers this year are higher than usual.

What is a Priority application?

General retail licenses authorize the sale of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. They are restricted by county population and must typically be purchased on the open market from an existing licensee, often for a very high premium. Licenses are usually confined to the county in which originally issued, so prices vary drastically across the state. Every year, the ABC announces a ‘priority application period’ when they will accept new license applications. In addition, they announce a number of inter-county transfer allowances – where a business owner in a priority county can purchase a general license from a licensee in any other county and transfer it into the priority county.

If you’re in the market for an Off-Sale General Package Store License (Type 21), an On-Sale General Eating Place License (Type 47), or a Special On-Sale General Club License (Type 57) within a county where licenses are available, you should apply.

Licenses Available by County

The maximum number of priority applications the ABC typically authorizes for each category (new on-sale, new off-sale, inter-county on-sale, inter-county off-sale) is twenty-five. The ABC has authorized the maximum number of priority applications in several counties, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, and San Diego. For a complete list of license available by county, click here.

2016 Filing Period

ABC District offices will accept priority applications by mail or in person from September 12-23, 2016. If by mail, it must be postmarked on or before September 23rd. If the ABC receives more applications than licenses available, a public drawing will be held at the District office. Successful applicants will have 90 days to complete a formal application for the specific premises.

Fees

Priority application fees are $13,800 for new general licenses and $6,000 for inter-county transfers. A certified check, cashier’s check, or money order must be submitted along with the priority application. Unsuccessful applicants will be refunded the application fee, minus $100 service charge.

Residency Requirements

Every applicant must have been a resident of California for at least 90 days prior to the scheduled drawing. Exact drawing dates vary by District office, but all are in mid-late October. For corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies, the 90-day residency requirement starts ticking upon registration with the California Secretary of State. Individual and general partnership applicants must submit proof of California residency.

If you’re interested in applying for a new or inter-county on- or off-sale general priority license, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.


Beer that isn’t Beer, Wine that isn’t Wine and Drinks that aren’t Beverages

April 27, 2015

Mostly in our practice at Strike & Techel we work with clients making fairly traditional alcoholic beverage products, albeit with new flavors, production methods and quality drivers. These classic alcoholic beverages are distilled spirits, wines and beers, subject to regulation by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). More and more, however, we are called upon to work with alcohol products that fall outside the TTB’s jurisdiction, either because they don’t meet traditional definitions, or because they simply aren’t classified as beverages.

Products that do not fit within TTB jurisdiction are subject to Food & Drug Administration (FDA) labeling requirements. Under TTB rules, wine must contain at least 7% alcohol, and beer must be malt-based. Because of these restricted definitions, common examples of drinks that are subject to FDA rules are wine coolers and ciders below 7% alcohol, and beers that aren’t made with malt. Any beers made with other grains, like sorghum, rice or wheat (usually to be sold as “gluten free” products), are under FDA rules. These beverages do not need to obtain label approval, as a standard alcoholic beverage would, but must comply with FDA rules on labeling, to avoid in-market audits for violations. In December 2014, the FDA finally published its guidance for industry on the labeling of non-malt-based beers, which had been in draft form since 2009 (LINK). It helpfully goes through all of the FDA labeling requirements that apply to such beers. These are the same requirements that apply to any FDA-regulated alcoholic beverage, including many ready to drink (RTD) beverages, as discussed in our recent blog post (LINK). Among the key distinctions from standard alcoholic beverage labeling are that the label must include an ingredient list and a nutritional statement.

As well as regulating alcoholic beverages, FDA also regulates certain non-beverage alcoholic products. These are products which are consumed – often as cocktail ingredients – but which are not classified as beverages by the TTB because they have been deemed “unfit” for beverage purposes under TTB regulations. Common examples of these products are bitters and other alcohol-based flavorings. Attaining non-beverage status is a goal rather than a failure for these products because products eligible for non-beverage status are exempt from payment of federal excise taxes and they can be sold by retailers without an alcoholic beverage license. Products with a lot of sugar or other flavorings or ingredients that serve to make them more palatable as beverages may not make the cut as non-beverages and would remain subject to excise taxes and TTB label jurisdiction.

TTB and FDA classifications of alcoholic products have significant implications on the way they are labeled, taxed and sold, so it is important to submit these products for TTB review before bringing them to market.

For more advice on alcoholic beverages and non-beverages, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2015 • All Rights Reserved •


Strike & Techel is hiring!

March 27, 2015

Strike & Techel LLP, a law firm specializing in alcoholic beverage law, is seeking an associate attorney with 2-5 years of law firm experience and enthusiasm for the alcoholic beverage field. The firm represents a broad range of clients, including producers (wineries, breweries and distilleries), importers, retailers, advertising/promotional agencies, and other related beverage industry businesses. S&T provides comprehensive counsel on a variety of topics relevant to our clients. We handle alcohol-specific matters such as regulatory compliance, dealings with state and federal alcohol agencies, and alcohol licensing, as well as general legal matters such as trademark registrations, contract drafting and review, purchase and sale transactions, etc. For more information about the firm, visit www.strikeandtechel.com.

Alcohol beverage law experience is highly desirable but not mandatory. The selected attorney will be responsible primarily for corporate matters and alcohol licensing projects. Strong corporate/transactional skills are essential, and familiarity with entity structuring and operating agreements/bylaws, commercial leases, and conditional use permits is preferred. The ideal applicant will have strong analytical, writing and communication skills, an engaging personality and a sense of humor.

If you think that you’d be a great fit with us, please send us your resume, a short sample blog post (modeled on the ones on our website) about a current alcoholic beverage issue that has caught your attention, a cover letter, references and salary requirements. In the cover letter, please tell us why you chose the issue in your sample blog post and why you are interested in alcoholic beverage law. We
will be accepting resumes through the end of April at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Changes to Small Brewery, Winery and Distillery Bonding, Reporting and Filing Requirements

March 11, 2015

The general rule for excise tax reporting for alcohol producers is that returns must be filed semi-monthly (i.e. twice a month). A special exception to that rule allows a small producer, who does not reasonably expect to be liable for more than $50,000 in excise tax in the year, to file quarterly returns. Each small producer is required to make a choice of whether to file quarterly or semi-monthly, with that choice impacting the bonding requirements for the production facility. The less frequent the excise tax payment, the higher the required bond amount. Very small wineries currently benefit from even longer reporting and tax deadlines. Wineries that expect to pay less than $1,000 in wine excise taxes in the coming year may file excise tax returns annually. Operations reports may also be filed annually if the winery doesn’t expect to produce more than 20,000 gallons of wine in any one month in the calendar year.

Now, under recent guidance from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”), small brewers will be forced to file returns quarterly rather than semi-monthly. This change will affect around 90% of licensed brewers. With the mandatory quarterly filing, the required bond is set at a flat $1,000 amount (previously, the bond for a brewer paying $50,000 in excise tax would have been $5,000 if filing semi-monthly, and close to $15,000 if filing quarterly). A brewery filing quarterly tax returns must also file a quarterly report of operations. To further lessen the burden of reporting for both brewers and TTB employees, the information required in the reports has been revised, with two sections removed. To see the full guidance, click here.

In addition to the TTB changes for small breweries, there is also a bill pending in the Senate that could reduce the compliance burden for all small producers. It would exempt small breweries, wineries and distilleries (i.e. not liable for more than $50,000 in excise tax in the year) from all current bonding requirements and would allow any small producer – not just small wineries—owing less than $1,000 a year to file annually. The proposal passed the Senate Finance Committee on February 11, 2015, and is awaiting consideration on the Senate floor. It has not yet been introduced in the House.

If you have any questions about brewery, winery or distillery operations reporting or taxes, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2015 • All Rights Reserved •


New California ABC Advisory on Merchandising Services by Suppliers

January 07, 2015

In December 2014, the California ABC posted a new Industry Advisory about merchandising services. Free services provided by suppliers to retail licensees, such as stocking shelves, pricing inventory, rotating stock, etc., are prohibited things-of-value under California Business & Professions Code sections 25500 and 25502. However, a number of permitted exceptions are separately provided for in Section 25503.2. The Advisory was posted in response to inquiries and complaints about the scope of permissible activity. When ABC receives multiple complaints about impermissible conduct, investigations and license accusations may well follow, so it would be prudent for suppliers to review the scope of permissible merchandising activities.

Permitted activity varies depending on the type of retailer and the products involved so we created a simple chart below to help keep it straight.

Note that in all cases, any merchandising activities can only be done with the retailer’s permission. In no case can a supplier move the inventory of another supplier, except for “incidental touching” to access the space allocated to the licensee providing the merchandising service.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2015 · All Rights Reserved ·


Prescriptions for Alcohol

December 04, 2014

In honor of Repeal Day, partner Kate Hardy agreed to share these fun pieces from her collection of Prohibition-era alcohol prescriptions. One prescribes whisky for the treatment of anorexia, and the others prescribe wine and whisky for unknown ailments. The directions for usage seem reasonable enough: take a pint in a wine glass every four hours, or mix it in eggnog. One of the prescriptions is for “Vin Gallici,” a contemporary of the also often prescribed “Spiritus Frumenti.” These are liquids more commonly referred to as wine and whisky. They were used in many prescriptions during Prohibition, possibly in the hope that they would look more medicinal if they were in Latin.

Liquor Prescription Stub

Prescription form for medicinal liquor

Liquor Prescription Stub

Prescription form for medicinal liquor

Form with stub

Prescription

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


What is in the Bottle? Rules for California Appellations on Wine Labels

November 10, 2014

Appellations of origin are the place names that describe where the grapes that make up a given wine were grown. There are rules controlling the statement of appellation on the label, all of which are aimed at making sure that the label of the product accurately reflects what is inside the bottle. Most of the appellation labeling rules are in the Code of Federal Regulations at 27 CFR Part 4, but state law must also be considered, and can sometimes be more limiting than the federal rules.

Appellations are required on wines if the label also includes a varietal designation or a vintage year (27 CFR 4.34(b)). The chart below lists some of the basics on appellations for wines made from California grapes.

Federal Rules

Appellation on Label What is in the Bottle?
California 75% of the fruit must be from California and the wine must be finished within California or an adjoining state. (27 CFR 4.25)
A County in California 75% of the fruit has to be from the county and the wine has to be finished in California. (27 CFR 4.25)
Two or Three Counties in California All of the fruit has to come from the listed counties, the percentage of fruit from each county has to be listed on the label, and the wine has to be finished in California. No more than three counties can be listed. (27 CFR 4.25)
An American Viticultural Area (AVA) in California AVAs are specific geographic areas approved by the TTB. A list of all of the AVAs in the country is available here. 85% of the fruit has to come from the AVA and the wine has to be finished in California. (27 CFR 4.25)


Special California Requirements

Appellation on Label Special California Rule
“California” or any geographical subdivision of California (including a county or two or three counties) 100% of fruit must come from California. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 17, § 17015). This rule is more specific than the federal rules, and means that any wine with a California appellation of any kind must be made from 100% California fruit.
“Sonoma County” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within Sonoma County. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25246)
“Napa Valley” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within Napa County. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25240)
“Lodi” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within the Lodi AVA (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25245)
“Paso Robles” Labels MUST say this if also labeled with an AVA entirely within the Paso Robles AVA (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25244)
“Napa”, “Sonoma” and any AVA in Napa County The rules for using “Napa,” “Sonoma,” and any AVAs in Napa are especially strict. Those terms cannot appear on the labels unless the wine in the bottle qualifies for use of the term under the federal labeling regulations.(Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25241, 25242 and 27 CFR 4.25)
Counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, San Benito, Solano, San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa, Monterey or Marin Any written representation (e.g., labels, advertising, company letterhead, etc.) that a wine is produced entirely from grapes grown in these counties must be true. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25237)
“California Central Coast Counties Dry Wine” This designation can only appear on a label if all of the grapes are from the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Alameda, San Benito, Solano San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa, Monterey or Marin. (Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code 25236)

Related Labeling Considerations

The appellation rules noted above are intertwined with other federal labeling regulations, which may also come into play. For example, if a label includes a varietal and an appellation, 75% of the grapes used in the wine must be of the stated grape type and all of those grapes must come from the stated appellation. (27 CFR 4.23) If the label includes a vintage year and an appellation, 85% of the grapes in the wine must be from the stated vintage year – and if the appellation is an AVA, the percentage requirement rises to 95%. (27 CFR 4.27)

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


Custom Crush vs. Alternating Proprietorship: Starting a Cheaper Wine Business

October 13, 2014

There is a long running joke that it is easy to make a million dollars in the wine industry, you just start with two million dollars. Joking aside, there are relatively low cost ways that you can get started in the wine business, without having to invest in planting your own vines and building your own winery. These options allow you to get started making and building your brand without having the considerable overhead of vineyards and winery buildings. Two ways exist of doing this: you can enter into a custom crush relationship with an existing winery to make wine for you, or you can get your own winery license, based at an existing licensed winery, in what is referred to as an alternating proprietorship or AP arrangement. In both cases, you own and develop your own wine brand or brands. We have put together some information on both systems here, and also recommend that you read the full Industry Circular from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on the differences between them.

Custom Crush

In a custom crush situation, you contract with a winery to make wine for you. Even if the grapes that are used for the wine are grown or purchased by you, the produced wine belongs to the winery until state and federal excise taxes are paid and it is sold to another properly licensed entity. The winery gets the label approval and maintains all records and reports. You, as the brand owner, generally obtain a wholesale license so that you can buy the tax-paid wine from the winery and then resell it to wholesalers and retailers, depending on your state licensing. Each state has a different way of managing this. In Oregon, for example, custom crush customers often get a state winery license alongside a federal wholesale license. In California, it is possible for a wholesaler to also obtain a retail license and market wine direct to consumers, although shipping to other states with such a license is limited to the small number of states which allow an out-of-state retailer to ship to their residents.

Alternating Proprietorship (AP)

The TTB will allow licensed premises to alternate between owners, such as in an AP agreement where more than one winery is licensed in the same location. Premises can also alternate between types of licenses, so that a facility can alternate between a winery and a brewery or distillery, for example. In an AP situation, the TTB will allow more than one licensee to operate a winery in the same location, and even for some of the same staff to be used, provided that each owner makes independent decisions evidencing authority and control over the winemaking process. The TTB requires and will review the written AP agreement between the parties, often referred to as “host” and “tenant,” to make sure that each licensee has a bona fide plan to conduct its own winery operations. Although an AP arrangement involves more permitting and recordkeeping than the custom crush approach, it carries some significant benefits. First, the AP tenant is licensed as a winery and will be able to benefit from the rights of a winery licensee in that state. These can include being able to sell direct to consumer in almost all states, operate one or more tasting rooms, and produce or blend other types of alcohol. Second, an AP tenant is likely to be eligible for the small domestic producer tax credit, as production is based only on the AP tenant’s production, which is not likely to exceed 250,000 gallons in the start-up phase (note that there are no minimum federal production requirements for a winery but California, for example, requires at least 201 gallons of wine a year to be made by a licensed winery). It should be noted that winery licensing under an AP agreement may trigger some grape sourcing requirements that you should be aware of, and you will need to research local planning issues more closely in an AP structure than a custom crush relationship.

If you are interested in learning more about custom crush and alternating proprietorships in California or elsewhere, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


California Revises On-Premises Wine & Spirits Consumer Tasting Law

October 01, 2014

On September 30, 2014, the California Governor signed into law Assembly Bill 520, which revises the state’s laws on consumer instructional tastings at on-premises licensed retailers (i.e., bars and restaurants). Prior to the revision, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 25503.5(c) permitted winegrowers, distilled spirits manufacturers, or an “authorized agent” of those licensees to conduct consumer tastings. The new legislation removes the consumer tasting provisions from Section 25503.5 (which now deals only with tastings for licensees and their employees) and creates a stand-alone consumer tasting statute in new Section 25503.57. The new law contains the same essential provisions as the old law, e.g., the event should be instructional in nature and can include information about the history, characteristics, and methods of serving the product; limited to 3 tastings per person, per day; tasting size limited to ¼ oz. for spirits and 1 oz. for wine.

The new law expands the list of licensees authorized to conduct consumer tastings to include a “winegrower, California winegrower’s agent, beer and wine importer general, beer and wine wholesaler, wine rectifier, distilled spirits manufacturer, distilled spirits manufacturer’s agent, distilled spirits importer general, distilled spirits rectifier, distilled spirits general rectifier, rectifier, out-of-state distilled spirits shipper’s certificate holder, distilled spirits wholesaler, brandy manufacturer, brandy importer, or California brandy wholesaler.” The authorized licensee may also use a “designated representative” to conduct a tasting. The law expressly excludes wholesaler/retailer combination licensees (Type 9/17/20) and limited off-sale wine retailer licensees (Type 85).

The new law also clarifies that both authorized licensees and retailers can advertise the events in advance, subject to the usual restrictions (suppliers cannot list prices or include laudatory statements about the retailer – name and address only – and cannot pay for the retailer’s ads). Only one licensee’s products can be promoted at any one time and a “designated representative” can only represent one licensee at a tasting. The new law takes effect January 1, 2015.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


Selling Alcohol to California Consumers Online

September 04, 2014

Traditionally a customer wanting a bottle of alcohol in California would go to their local package or grocery store to get it or, if they were lucky enough to be in wine country, directly to a winery. In recent years, with consumers actively experimenting and looking for more variety, and with the boom in online shopping generally, consumers have a lot more options to find that elusive boutique wine, craft beer or small batch spirit brand that they have heard about and have been looking for. All of this means that consumers are turning more and more to the internet to find the alcohol that they want to serve at home. A quick Google search of internet alcohol sales in California yields more than 10 million results.

SPIRITS: Only a California Type 21 off-sale general licensee can sell a bottle of distilled spirits direct to consumer (DTC). Although a distiller can host a customer at the distillery to taste the products that are made there, a distiller cannot sell a bottle of spirits to a customer to take home.

BEER: There is a bit more leeway for beer with brewers being able to offer tastings and sell beer to customers. The CA law was revised just this year to make it very clear that a brewer can only sell its own beer to customers, and not beer made by other brewers, unless it gets a retail license. As a matter of policy, the ABC will allow a beer manufacturer to also make an online sale of its beer to a consumer. An on-premises retailer like a restaurant or a bar can also sell beer to customers to take home, and by the same ABC policy can sell online. Off-sale retailers like grocery stores can sell beer to consumers online.

WINE: As with other alcohol, wine can be sold DTC by off-sale retailers. An on-sale retailer can also sell wine online, under ABC policy allowing online sales by retailers. A winery can also sell wine DTC, both at the winery and online, including through wine clubs. The state also offers two opportunities for the online retail sale of wine without a traditional brick and mortar store. The first of these is with a 17/20 wholesale and retail combination, or a 9/17/20 import/wholesale/retail combination. In both cases, wine can be sold online to customers and indeed can only be sold by direct mail, telephone or the internet from a location which is not open to the public. The license combination is often located right at the warehouse, enabling the licensee to easily pick and pack and ship out customer orders. The 17/20 combination allows the holder to sell directly to retailers as well as consumers and, with the addition of the type 9, the licensee can bring in wine from out-of-state and get it all the way to a consumer without passing through any other licensee’s hands. The second option is more recent and consists of a type 85 license, which gives the licensee the ability to sell wine at retail without the added wholesale or import rights. The chief distinction between the 85 and the 17/20 combination is that the 17/20 licensees have a wholesale license so they are required to make sales to retailers in addition to consumers, whereas the type 85 licensee sells only to consumers.

OUT-OF-STATE SELLERS: If you are a seller of alcohol located out-of-state, only wine can be sold DTC to California consumers and only under certain circumstances. A licensed winery in another U.S. state can get a direct shipper’s permit to sell DTC. For a licensed retailer in another state, the laws are murkier. California has a “reciprocity” statute which only permits out-of-state retail sales from states which allow a California retailer to ship to that state’s consumers. Currently, only thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow such sales. However, the concept of “reciprocity” was criticized by the Supreme Court in its 2005 decision in Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460, with specific reference to this California law. The law itself has not been challenged and thus the limitation remains on the books.

If you are interested in learning more about direct shipping laws in California or elsewhere, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Supplier-Funded Instant Rebates No Longer Permitted on Beer in California

August 07, 2014

On July 18th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Section 25600.3 of the Business and Professions Code, which expressly prohibits beer manufacturers, importers, and wholesalers from offering, funding, sponsoring, or furnishing any type of coupon whereby a consumer gets an instant discount on beer, cider or perry, at the time of purchase. Prohibited coupons include instantly redeemable coupons (IRCs) of all kinds, whether paper, digital or electronic. The bill also prohibits retail licensees from accepting or possessing any such coupon funded by a beer wholesaler or manufacturer, although it does not prevent a retailer from offering its own coupons as set out below.

Per the bill sponsor, beer IRCs have been targets for fraud and have created liability issues for beer suppliers, as well as creating an imbalance in the beer marketplace among major breweries and the burgeoning craft beer market. The bill received major support from MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch.

Not affected by the law are mail-in rebates, retailer-sponsored coupons, instant coupons for distilled spirits and wine (provided the coupons do not also discount beer), and instant rebates offered by beer manufacturers at the production facility or other premises owned or operated by the manufacturer. This last exception keeps the door open for small brewers licensed with a Type 23 license to offer instant rebates at brew-pubs owned and operated by the brewery.

Suppliers and retailers should be careful with all beer, cider and perry coupons as they may be affected by the new prohibition. We have put together a chart below to show what coupons are caught by the law. You should check each license that is held by the sponsor to see if the law prevents the coupon.

California IRCs by Alcohol and ABC License Type

Beer Manufacturer (CA or out-of-state) Beer and Wine Wholesaler Beer and Wine Importer Winegrower (if wholly owned by a Beer Manufacturer) Winegrower (not owned by Beer Manufacturer) Retailer
Malt beverages (incl. beer) No No No No N/A Yes
Cider No No No No Yes Yes
Perry No No No No Yes Yes
Wine/spirits N/A Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes


Rebate regulations vary from state to state. For more information on coupon laws for wine, beer, and distilled spirits, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


How About a Bacon Flavored Beer?

July 09, 2014

“Ready-to-drink” alcoholic beverage categories are continuing to boom. Variously known as flavored malt beverages (FMBs), alcopops, progressive adult beverages (PABs) and ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs), all sorts of flavors are being added to all sorts of products to create new taste sensations. Despite RTDs generally suffering some decline after Four Loko triggered state bans on adding caffeine to alcoholic beverages (covered here, here, here, here, and here), the category has well and truly picked up again in recent times.

If you are looking to produce a flavored product, we have put some tips together to keep in mind.

Formulation Issues

One of the key things under federal law to be aware of with FMBs is that most of the alcohol must come from the malt beverage base. If the product is below 6% alcohol, at least half of the alcohol must come from the production of the beverage itself and cannot come from nonbeverage items like flavorings (which often contain high alcohol levels). Above 6%, no more than 1.5% of the alcohol can be from nonbeverage ingredients.

For wine-based products, an important factor to keep in mind is to make sure that your formula leaves you with a product that you can sell in grocery stores in states that do not allow them to sell wine. In New York, for example, a wine product that can be sold in grocery stores must meet a strict definition which includes that it must be below 6% alcohol, and it must contain juice and carbon dioxide. If you can meet the definition, you fall outside price posting requirements in the state, but you still have to register the brand there. Similarly, in a state like New York, you should be aware that a distilled spirits based RTD, even if below 6% or 7% alcohol, can’t be sold at grocery, convenience and pharmacy type stores where most low alcohol products are sold.

Labeling Issues

It is important to know about the various regulatory agencies that monitor the labeling of alcoholic beverages. FMBs and wine coolers, depending on their alcohol content, could fall under the regulation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), or both. For example, labeling requirements for wines containing 7% or more alcohol are controlled by the TTB, but wine coolers under 7% alcohol are regulated by the FDA, because such products do not fall under the federal definition of wine. In addition, labeling requirements for beers not made from malted barley and hops are regulated by the FDA (such as sorghum beer), while malt based products and distilled spirit based products are subject principally to TTB requirements.

If your product falls under TTB’s labeling jurisdiction, you will need to get a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) and you will likely need to get formula approval (see, for example, our previous blog on easing up of beer formula requirements here). If your product label is FDA regulated, you will have to include a nutrition facts statement and other information that would not be required under the TTB labeling regulations. Bear in mind that even products under FDA jurisdiction for labeling still may need TTB formula approval. You need to be careful about using any type of name which makes customers think that the product might be a spirit drink if it isn’t (including cocktail names like margarita or daiquiri).

Recycling

In addition to formulation and labeling issues, recycling laws surrounding FMBs and similar products can be tricky. Ten states, including California (with its CalRecycle program), Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Vermont, have container recycling laws that apply to a variety of alcoholic beverages. The specific products that are subject to the laws vary from state to state, as do the container marking requirements. Wine- and spirits-based products may be subject to recycling laws, even in states where wine and distilled spirits are exempted.

Conclusion

Before producing a flavored malt beverage or other ready to drink beverage, be sure to familiarize yourself with the special rules that apply to these products. For questions about any of these products, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB Loosens the Reins on Malt Beverage Formula Requirements

June 16, 2014

In an industry ruling issued June 5, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) announced that malt beverages made with certain ingredients, including honey and certain fruits and spices, would no longer be subject to formula approval requirements. Additionally, the ruling exempts beer aged in barrels previously used in the production of wine or distilled spirits from the need to get a formula approval. Under the TTB regulations, ingredients and processes used in the production of malt beverages must be deemed “traditional” in order to be exempt from formula and certain labeling requirements. Until the ruling was issued, TTB had a very limited view of what met the requirements for “traditional” malt beverage production.

The ruling stems from a years long battle with the Brewer’s Association, which petitioned back in 2006 and 2007 to exempt certain ingredients and processes from rigorous approval requirements in light of growing experimentation and trends in the beer industry. The petition identified the most popular ingredients and processes, and urged the TTB to broaden their definition of “traditional” brewing methods. Initially, the TTB gave a limited response and exempted beers with added brown sugar, candy sugar or lactose from approval and special labeling requirements. With the new ruling, the options for adding ingredients to standard beers and other malt beverages without needing to go through the formula approval process are greatly expanded. Additionally, there is an opportunity for brewers to request exemption from formula requirements even if their ingredients are not already on the approved list. A full list of the approved ingredients and processes can be viewed here.

Before the ruling, if flavors were added before, during, or after the fermentation process, that had to be included on the label. Now, the requirement for flavors is that the statement be truthful and in accordance with trade understanding. So for example, a brewer cannot say “ale brewed with cherries” if the cherries were added after the brewing process. To be clear, a statement must still appear on the label to show the addition of any non-standard beer ingredient; the ruling now simply allows for more relaxed processing and avoids the need for formula approval.

The TTB’s expanded ruling of “traditional” brewing ingredients and methods bodes well for brewers and importers looking to get a quick(er) approval for their products and will help speed up all formula approvals due to the reduced TTB workload. Currently approved formulas and labels will not be affected by the ruling.

For questions about brewing requirements, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


More New York Industry Guidance on Limited Availability, Brand Registration and more

June 03, 2014

Following our blog post on May 6 (http://strikeandtechel.com/imbiblog/nysla-expands-suppliers-ability-to-entertain-consumers/), regarding the new advisory from New York covering supplier events, here are some more advisories recently published by New York. The advisories summarized here cover limited availability items and closeout sales, new brand registration rules, growler information for beer and cider, and the use of third party agents for consumer tastings.

Limited Availability Items – #2014-5

New York is one of a number of states around the country which continues to require its wholesalers to post prices for wine and spirits around five weeks in advance of sale. The retail posted pricing (from in-state manufacturers and wholesalers to retailers) is available to any retailer who wants to buy the products at the posted price. In the case of products with limited availability, or in the case of closeout sales with limited inventory, the SLA published an advisory in 2013 and now replaces it with this one.

A limited availability item is one where the New York manufacturer or wholesaler believes that demand will exceed supply. As an exception to the general, and strongly enforced, rule against channel pricing, limited availability items can be allocated differently between on- and off-premises retail buyers. A closeout sale occurs when the manufacturer or wholesaler intends to sell its entire remaining inventory of an older or seasonal item at a price at least 10% lower than the last posted price.

In the case of limited availability items, the SLA is switching over the whole current price posting system to create a new category for these types of items. The new system will allow a manufacturer or wholesaler to indicate how it will allocate limited availability items. The system will also allow a manufacturer or wholesaler to move items to limited availability after prices have been posted if there is an exceptional event like a high score from a trade or consumer publication or a celebrity endorsement. In the advisory, the SLA gives a number of examples of allocation methods which are permitted.

Brand Label Registration – #2014-7

In addition to federal certificate of label approval (COLA) requirements from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), New York requires brand labels to be registered with the state for almost all alcoholic beverages. Wines over 7% alcohol which have a COLA do not generally need to be registered. Many of the changes in the new advisory parallel recent TTB changes allowing a number of label alterations without requiring a new COLA.

Brand labels must contain the brand or trade name, the class and type of alcoholic beverage, the net contents and other labeling information required for a COLA. If there is any change to the brand name, the flavor description, age or geographic appellation, or if qualifiers like “kosher” or “organic” are added to a label, a new registration must be obtained. If the alcoholic content of a brand registered product changes more than 1.5%, or 0.5% in the case of a cider or a “wine product,” a new registration must be obtained. Unlike wine, “wine products” can be sold in grocery stores if they meet the state-specific definition, which requires things like carbonation and added flavoring materials. Registrations are filed by the brand owner, if they are a New York licensee, or otherwise by the New York wholesaler appointed by the brand owner to post prices for and sell the product.

Brand label registrations are valid for a set calendar year depending on the type of alcoholic beverage. Current registrations will remain in effect until they expire and will then be transitioned to the new schedule. There will be additional use-up periods allowed for non-compliant products.

Private labels owned by retailers who sell them exclusively are exempt from price posting requirements. The labels do not have to contain the retailer’s name, but the brand name must belong to the retailer or the retailer must have the legal right to use the name. A retailer can license the brand name from another entity but cannot license a brand name belonging to a manufacturer or wholesaler. The use of terms like “exclusively bottled for” or “exclusive to” cannot be used to try and create a private brand label for a retailer.

Growlers – #2014-11

The advisory covers the sale of beer and cider in growlers by off premise retailers authorized to sell those beverages and confirms that liquor and wine cannot be sold in growlers in New York. In the case of beer and cider, either the consumer can provide the container or the retailer can. Due to local open container laws, retailers serving growlers should provide sealed containers where applicable.

Authorized Agents for Tastings and Bottle Sales – #2014-13

Certain New York licensees, and certain out-of-state suppliers with supplier marketing permits, are allowed to provide tastings in accordance with an advisory published in July 2013. This new advisory confirms that the licensee or supplier can use another manufacturer or wholesaler licensee as its agent for such a tasting. The only exception is that a beer wholesaler is not allowed to act as an agent for a brewer.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB Reconsiders Use of “Estate Bottled” Following a Winery Sale

May 21, 2014

To be labeled as “estate bottled,” a wine must be, among other things, made from grapes grown in an American Viticultural Area, on land that is owned or “controlled by” the winery, and the winery must crush, finish, age and bottle the wine in a continuous process.

Previous guidance from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) suggested that a wine would not be entitled to use the “estate bottled” designation if a change of ownership of the winery occurred at any point during the winemaking process, because the new owner technically would not have “controlled” all phases of the process. To address this issue, sellers and buyers of wineries that produce “estate bottled” wines would sometimes enter into an Alternating Proprietorship Agreement (“AP”) whereby the seller would maintain its bonded winery operations until all wine in process at the winery as of the closing date had been bottled and labeled. This approach was difficult for both sellers and buyers, given that the AP could be in effect for a lengthy period of time depending on which stage of production the “estate bottled” wine was in.

In a recent private letter ruling, the TTB advised that it has reconsidered its position and that the proprietor of a winery can use an “estate bottled” designation for wine that was grown and fermented by a predecessor proprietor and bottled by a new proprietor (provided the wine also met the other requirements under 27 C.F.R. § 4.26). The ruling provides that the ownership of a winery may change while the wine is in process as long as the bottling winery does not change. The TTB further explains that the definition of “controlled by” refers to the land on which the grapes are grown and the winery operates, as opposed to the owner of such land. With a change in winery ownership, the “estate” land is not altered, and thus the new owner can maintain the “estate bottled” designation.

This guidance from the TTB should come as a welcome relief to potential purchasers and sellers of wineries that produce “estate bottled” wines.

For questions about the acquisition or sale of a winery, please contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


Brewing Beer in California

April 14, 2014

With the explosive growth in craft beers and micro and nano and other really, really small breweries, we at Strike & Techel wanted to put together some helpful tips for anyone looking to brew beer in the state. If you want to make beer commercially, these guidelines will help you work out the best way to start your new business. You will find three ways to get going in the guidelines: small beer manufacturing, beer manufacturing (over 60,000 barrels of beer), and brewpub operations where you get to brew beer and sell it to people in a restaurant or pub setting.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about brewing beer in California or other states.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


Wine Liberty for All (Adults) in Massachusetts

April 07, 2014

Massachusetts wine consumers will soon have equal access to Napa Cabs, Oregon Pinot Noirs, and New York Rieslings, as the commonwealth finally joins the ranks of direct shipping states with the passage of House Bill 294. Effective January 1, 2015, the bill will allow the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to issue licenses allowing out-of-state and in-state wineries to ship a limited amount of wine, by common carrier, directly to Massachusetts residents.

Prior to the passage of HB 294, out of state wineries were effectively shut out by the Massachusetts direct shipping law, which purported to allow direct shipping, but included so many restrictions and limitations that it was unworkable. Despite a successful court challenge to the existing law, in which the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Massachusetts shipping law was discriminatory, the legislators have been unable until now to pass replacement legislation. In 2013, House Representative Theodore Speliotis introduced HB 294, and with the help of fellow lawmakers and a celebrity endorsement from New England Patriots quarterback-turned-Washington state vintner Drew Bledsoe, the measure was approved and has now been signed by the governor July 11th 2014. Under the new law, all U.S. wineries with a federal basic permit and home state winery license may obtain a license to ship up to 24 cases of wine per year to a Massachusetts resident 21 years of age or older. Like most direct shipper licenses, the Massachusetts license will also require the winery to submit a yearly report to the Commission and Department of Revenue detailing the total gallons of wine shipped, as well as require taxes be paid on all products shipped. The initial license fee will be $300.00 per winery, with a $150 annual renewal fee.

Common carriers delivering in the state are required to have a fleet permit and each vehicle transporting alcohol under the permit must have a certified copy of it in the vehicle, at a cost of $50 per certified copy.

The new law has drawn some criticism because it permits shipments only from U.S. wineries, effectively prohibiting direct shipment of imported wines to Massachusetts consumers. The Massachusetts law is not alone in this restriction; importers and retailers are excluded by the direct shipping laws of some other states, as well. But the law nonetheless represents another step forward in direct to consumer wine sales. Only eight states continue to have a complete ban on winery shipments direct to consumer. If you are interested in learning more about direct shipping law in Massachusetts or elsewhere, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Nevada Signals Intention to More Actively Monitor Trade Practices

March 05, 2014

Almost three years ago now, as reported on Imbiblog here, the TTB accepted its largest set of offers in compromise ever, for trade practices violations. Some of the biggest names in the business agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the TTB even though they denied violating any laws or regulations. The allegations of trade practice violations came from participation by the companies in the 2008-2009 Harrah’s Nationwide Beverage Program. Unlike notable earlier trade practice investigations by the TTB, where there was state participation and a parallel investigation, there were no allegations made against retailers involved in the program, and no fines or penalties assessed against retailers (see for example the 2004-2009 joint investigation by Illinois and TTB into payments made by suppliers and wholesalers to Sam’s Wine & Spirits, Inc., then the largest wine retailer in the country, and its captive third party marketing organization Skyline Marketing, Inc.). The 2011 settlement by TTB was acknowledged to result from a retailer-initiated promotional program. Given that the TTB has extremely limited jurisdiction over alcohol retailers, however, the agency was unable to enforce any allegations against Harrah’s for the promotion. Had the State of Nevada participated in the investigation, it is more likely that charges could have been brought.

Now, the Office of the Attorney-General in Nevada has come out with an open letter to retailers, wholesalers and suppliers of liquor in Nevada in what appears to signal an intention to focus more attention on trade practice issues in the State. The advice contained in the letter is phrased as a “reminder” to the industry of prohibited and restricted activities. It covers the following issues:

- No loans from wholesalers to retailers of money or other thing of value, no investments by a wholesaler in a retailer, no complimentary furnishing of premises or equipment, and no joint operation of a retail business;

- Adherence to strict payment terms, with no preference accorded by wholesalers to certain retailers, and with a cessation of sales and monthly service charges in case of delinquency;

- No substitution of brands without consent, and no delivery of unwanted or unnecessary inventory;

- No required boycotts of other suppliers;

- No price fixing down the supply chain by suppliers imposing resale prices on wholesalers, and no profit splitting with the supplier getting a specified portion of the wholesaler’s profit margin;

- No excessive marketing contributions being required by suppliers of their wholesalers, for promotions outside the wholesaler’s market or beyond the terms agreed by the parties;

- Strict adherence to the quoted price from suppliers to wholesalers;

- No discrimination by suppliers among wholesalers (note that Nevada has a franchise law meaning that this refers to discrimination between wholesalers in different parts of the state as only one wholesaler can be appointed in any given market); and,

- No deceptive trade practices.

The letter refers to concerns with illegal terms or incentives by industry members looking for a competitive edge in the market. It notes that the Attorney General has jurisdiction over these issues and is required by law to take appropriate legal action to enforce the provisions of law setting forth the restrictions above. The Attorney General’s office recognizes in the letter its duty to investigate and prosecute deceptive trade practices in Nevada. Should the type of circumstances in the TTB’s investigation in 2011 arise again, it will be very interesting to see what action is taken by the state in light of this clear signal that it is unlikely to sit by if unlawful trade practices occur in Nevada.

If you have any questions about trade practice issues, in Nevada or elsewhere, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


Tennessee House of Representatives Overwhelmingly Passes Wine in Grocery Stores Bill

February 24, 2014

Last Thursday, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed House Bill 610 by a vote of 71-15, voting to allow the issue of the sale of wine in grocery stores to be submitted to voters in local referendums, and creating a permit for the sale of wine by grocery stores. On January 30, the Senate had approved Senate Bill 837 by a vote of 23-8. The Bill will now be returned to the Senate to review the remaining differences between the two bills, before it goes to the Governor for signature. If signed by the Governor, it is anticipated that the issue could be on local November ballots for consumers to weigh in on local approval of grocery store wine sales.

One of the key differences between the two bills was fixed by the House in its new version, with the reduction of minimum size for grocery and convenience stores from 2,000 to 1,200 square feet, allowing about 500 more convenience stores to qualify. The House also reduced the fee for a grocery store wine license to $1,250 from $2,000, bringing it closer to the $850 in the Senate Bill. Already, following the House vote, Sen. Bill Ketron, the Republican who sponsored the Senate Bill, indicated to reporters that he planned to accept the House version and could ask for a vote as soon as March 3.

Even if approved, wine sales won’t be possible in grocery locations until summer 2016 due to an agreement reached with lobbies for liquor stores and wholesalers that had opposed the proposals. In another concession to liquor stores, both bills open up opportunities for traditional liquor stores to sell items other than alcohol and to do so as soon as this summer, two years before any grocery store wine sales could begin. Liquor stores are currently allowed to sell only wine and distilled spirits and a few minor accessories like corkscrews. Additionally, grocery stores would be subject to a minimum 20% markup on wines sold, in an attempt to address volume discounting, and would be prevented from offering combined deals of wine and other grocery items. To encourage wholesaler support, the Senate Bill allows for wholesalers to be located outside the four major cities in the state which they are currently restricted to, and the House Bill would extend that even further to any county which currently permits bars or liquor stores to operate. Blue laws, preventing Sunday sales of alcohol, will not be affected by any new legislation, and such sales will continue to be prohibited.

The debate in Tennessee has been ongoing since 2006. It is not the only state which has been discussing this issue as we previously blogged here. Currently, thirty-five states do not restrict the sale of wine in grocery stores. No state has managed to pass legislation changing the status quo since Iowa permitted grocery store sales in 1985. Factions in New York, now the second largest wine-producing state by volume, have attempted to pass wine in grocery store bills on numerous occasions, including a significant push in 2011. The Kansas House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee held a hearing Wednesday on House Bill 2556 which would allow the sale of full strength beer and wine in grocery stores, inducing vigorous debate. A bill introduced to the Oklahoma Legislature this month, which would permit wine to be sold in grocery stores and nonalcoholic beverages and refrigerated beer and wine to be sold in liquor stores, died in Committee. And last month, a federal appeals court in Kentucky ruled that the state’s ban on grocery store sales of wine and liquor was constitutional. The court said that the state had every right to ban such sales, “just as a parent can reduce a child’s access to liquor.” The grocers who filed the original challenge to the law are reviewing rehearing and appeal options now.

If you have any questions about where wine can be sold, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved ·


Dan Kramer Featured in The San Francisco Examiner!

February 03, 2014

Strike & Techel’s own Dan Kramer was featured in an article in Sunday’s San Francisco Examiner. Dan was interviewed for the article “Want to be in the booze business in SF? Better know the law” in which he discusses his experience in the alcoholic beverage industry, including the complications and expenses of obtaining a retail license in San Francisco, California promotional issues, as well as distribution and direct shipping. As Dan pointed out, alcoholic beverage legal issues can not only be complicated, but they are often not on people’s radar as they venture into the industry. If you’re just getting started in the industry or have any questions about retail licensing, distribution, direct shipping, or just about anything else in the industry, call Dan or one of the other attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved


Getting Started in the Business: Entity

January 15, 2014

This blog entry is part of a continuing series discussing important steps to get started in the alcoholic beverage industry. In addition to choosing a location for your business (discussed in a previous post, here), and before you prepare the applications to obtain the license(s) required to operate your business (discussed in a previous post, here), you will also need to consider what type of business entity should be formed in order to operate your business.

We usually counsel clients to hold their alcoholic beverage license under an entity, rather than as an individual. Formation of an entity that is separate and distinct from its owners offers protection against certain liabilities and may be advantageous from a tax perspective.

The type of entity (e.g., corporation, limited liability company, trust, etc.) and the domicile (state) of the entity can impact how the entity is taxed. Your tax advisor may have an opinion on these issues. If the entity is not domiciled in California and you intend to apply for a California ABC license, the entity will have to qualify to do business in California before you can file your applications. You may also need to register a fictitious business name in the county in which your business will operate and obtain a local business license(s).

In order to establish an entity in California, you will have to file Articles with the Secretary of State. You will also need to prepare corporate bylaws or an LLC operating agreement, depending on which type of entity you form. These documents are very important, as they set forth the specifics about ownership percentages, voting rights, profit distributions, etc. Bear in mind that certain changes in ownership, such as added shareholders/LLC members can affect your alcohol licenses. It is wise to consider carefully who will be an owner of the business entity and whether any ownership changes are likely to occur before submitting your license applications.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions relating to forming a business entity in order to get started in the alcohol beverage business.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2014 · All Rights Reserved


Getting Started in the Business: Licensing

December 12, 2013

This blog entry is part of a continuing series discussing important steps to get started in the alcoholic beverage industry. Once you have pinpointed a location for your business (discussed in a previous post, here), you will need to obtain a license, or a combination of licenses, before you commence operations. To determine what type(s) of license(s) you need, here are some answers to questions you may be asking:

* Do the Tied-House Laws Permit Me to Hold the Licenses I Want? Federally and across all states, “tied house” laws generally prohibit the same person or entity from having an ownership interest in alcohol beverage businesses in more than one of the 3 tiers -manufacturing/importing, distribution and retail. (To learn more about tied house laws, review this post.) However, that restriction is far from absolute. Many statutory exceptions have been carved out of the 3-tier system to permit cross-tier licensing and the resulting patchwork of exceptions can be difficult to comprehend. For example, in California, wineries can also own restaurants (subject to restrictions) and certain off-sale retail stores. Small breweries (less than 60,000 barrels/year) can own on-sale retailers but large breweries cannot. Beer and wine wholesalers cannot also be retailers, unless they sell only wine through the retail store. Other states have their own set of hard-to-explain exceptions.

* What Does My License Permit Me to Do? The general rule is that manufacturers sell to wholesalers; wholesalers sell to retailers; and retailers sell to consumers. But this, too, is riddled with exceptions. California wineries and breweries can sell their products directly to retailers and consumers without using a distributor, but distilled spirits manufacturers can sell only to distributors and cannot themselves hold a distributor license. Rectifiers, on the other hand, can act as their own distributor and sell their products – and spirits products made by anyone else – directly to retailers. Moreover, you may need more than one license to operate your business. For example, if you are going to be operating a distillery, you will need a Type 4 (Distilled Spirits Manufacturer’s license), and a Type 6 (Still) license. If you are importing distilled spirits from outside of California and distributing them to retailers you’ll need a Type 12 (Distilled Spirits Importer), and a Type 18 (Distilled Spirits Wholesaler). California issues dozens of different licenses so it is important to know exactly what you want to do, which licenses are needed to accomplish it, and whether you are eligible to hold them.

* What are the Processing Times to Obtain a License? In California, it takes about 90-120 days to process an application for a new license, and slightly less time to transfer an existing license at a premises that is already licensed. It will take longer to process an application that is incomplete, contested by neighboring residents or the local authorities, or filed incorrectly. Also keep in mind that the ABC cannot issue a license until it has received confirmation from the City/County that all required use permits have been obtained. Each applicant will be assigned a local ABC investigator to handle the application until the process is completed. Currently, U.S. Alcohol Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau (“TTB”) licenses are processing in about 90 days, similar to California licenses.

* May I Obtain a Temporary Permit? Provided that you are transferring an existing license at an already licensed premises, the California ABC may grant a temporary permit so you may operate your business while the license transfer application is being processed. A temporary permit is not available in connection with applications for new licenses or applications to transfer existing licenses to a premises that has not been previously licensed.

* What Are the Costs Involved? Depending on what type(s) of license(s) applied for, the cost can vary considerably. A schedule of license costs is available here. Some retail licenses are limited in numbers and must be purchased on the open market. Prices for these licenses vary greatly by type and location. For instance, a Type-47 (On-sale general eating place) may sell for $200,000 in San Francisco, whereas the same type of license in Fresno County currently only costs $12,000.

In conjunction with your ABC application, you may also need to obtain other federal, state or local licenses/permits. In California this may include, for example: federal licenses through the TTB; a certification from the Secretary of State that you are qualified to do business in the state; and a sales tax permit from the State Board of Equalization.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about applying for a license to get started in the alcohol beverage business.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Happy Repeal Day! 80 Years Ago Prohibition was Repealed

December 05, 2013

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, thus repealing the 18th Amendment and marking the end to enforcement of the Volstead Act and the official end of the period known as “Prohibition.” Most historians agree that Prohibition was a failure. Born out of the late 19th Century formation of temperance societies, like the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, Prohibition was intended to strengthen families and reduce social problems caused by overconsumption of alcohol. Instead, it brought more than 10 years of increased crime, and little or no decrease in alcohol consumption (but it did give rise to great terms like Speakeasy, the Real McCoy, and Blind Pig). After 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours and 32.5 minutes of Prohibition, the Noble Experiment finally ended and alcohol could once again be purchased legally in the U.S.

Happy Repeal Day from everyone at Strike & Techel.

Cheers!


Getting Started in the Business: Location

December 02, 2013

This blog entry is part of a continuing series discussing important steps to get started in the alcoholic beverage industry. If you intend to obtain an alcoholic beverage license for your business, you’ll need to have a location for the business before you apply. In selecting a location, you should consider the following factors.

State: Each state has different licenses available, charges different fees for its licenses, and applies different rules to its licensees. Further, some states move faster than others in issuing licenses. Once you’ve settled on a business model, you should choose a state that is favorable to your model and where you can get licensed on a schedule that works for your launch plans.

Zoning and Lease: Check with the local planning department to make sure the location that you are considering is properly zoned for the proposed activity. If it is not properly zoned, the process to obtain an exception can be long, expensive and unpredictable, so proceed with caution. If you must enter a lease before applying for an alcoholic beverage license, be sure to include a provision that allows you to vacate the lease if you are unable to obtain the desired alcoholic beverage license at the location.

Limited Availability: In some localities and for some license types, the number of available licenses is limited. If you cannot obtain a new license from the alcohol regulatory agency and have to buy one on the open market, prices may vary widely depending on supply and demand. This is particularly common in densely populated areas. Be aware that a slight change in location can have a large impact on the availability and cost of the license you need.

Consideration Points: Though each state is different, most states do not want alcohol businesses to be close (within 500 ft.) to churches or schools. If there are residential neighbors near your proposed location, they will also be given an opportunity to oppose your license application. Try to determine if your business will be welcomed by the local police department and residents. If local law enforcement does not support your project, you may face an uphill licensing battle. Moreover, sometimes an active anti-alcohol neighborhood group can delay or even derail a licensing project. Typically, a large poster-sized notice announcing your application will be posted while the license is pending, so if you elect to license your home, be prepared for curious neighbors.

The most important consideration in choosing a location for your business is deciding where you want/need to be located. For example, where do you want to spend your time? Where do you want to make most of your sales? Do you need to have access to a warehouse or will an office suffice? What sort of staffing will you need to operate the business and is it available within the local labor pool? Are economies of scale possible by sharing warehousing or production facilities?

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about things to consider when choosing a location to get started in the alcohol beverage business.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Wine Growlers From a Keg

October 29, 2013

Keg wine is a growing trend. Packaging and selling wine in kegs has a lot of advantages. Wine kegs are refillable and reusable. Wineries save on packaging costs, and restaurants enjoy the convenience of serving many customers without constantly uncorking bottles.

Alcohol laws dictating permissible containers and packaging for wine are expanding in concert with retailer and consumer interest in keg wine. For example:

- Effective July 1, 2013, Florida allows the sale of wine in 5.16 gallon canisters, which can be tapped like kegs, to restaurants and bars.

- Effective April 1, 2013, Oregon allows any wine shop, grocery store, wine bar or restaurant to buy wine by the keg and resell it to consumers by the glass, or in some establishments, consumers can fill their own containers in a size that is 2 gallons or less.

Most states continue to have restrictions on this “growler” type of service by a wine shop. Those restrictions comport with federal rules saying that packages cannot be filled with wine except at a winery or at a “tax paid bottling house.”

We expect to see more legislation in the coming months and years if this trend continues.

If you have any questions about keg wine, feel free to consult one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Clarifications from the ABC on Sweepstakes and Contests in California

October 17, 2013

On June 13, 2013, guests attending ShipCompliant’s “Direct 2013” conference heard from Matthew Botting, General Counsel to the California ABC, on supplier participation in sweepstakes and contests under California’s new law. We’ve previously blogged about the new law here and here.

California Code of Regulations Title 4, Section 106 (“Rule 106”) has always allowed suppliers to “sponsor” a contest, meaning suppliers could give money or otherwise participate when the contest was organized by “bona fide amateur or professional organizations.” Previously, the privilege was limited. Now, the privileges are broader: suppliers (including wineries) can now “conduct” a contest under recently enacted Business and Professions Code Section 25600.1, and conduct or sponsor a sweepstakes under 25600.2. Mr. Botting discussed the different available privileges and their limitations:

* “Conduct” means the promotion is managed and organized by the supplier.
* “Sponsor” means it is someone else’s sweepstakes or contest and the supplier is providing a prize or other sponsorship of the promotion.
* For the time being, suppliers can only sponsor a contest in accordance with the existing Rule 106, which means sponsorship is limited to a contest conducted by bona fide amateur or professional organizations.
* Sponsoring a sweepstakes and conducting a sweepstakes or contest is now covered by Business and Professions Code Section 25600.1 and 25600.2. Sweepstakes or contests cannot require a visit to a licensed premises of any kind, so there must be an alternate method of entry (“AMOE”) if entry forms are available at a licensee.
* Sweepstakes and contests cannot be conducted on retail premises (e.g., a grocery store, liquor store, bar or restaurant). A “retail premise” includes some locations you might not think of, such as: an unlicensed premises if a licensed caterer is present, or at an event held by a nonprofit under a one-day permit. The ABC considers events held with a caterer’s license or a nonprofit one-day permit to occur “at the premises of a retail licensee,” and therefore a supplier may only provide a means of entry at either of these types of events.
* While suppliers may provide a means of entry for the contest or sweepstakes, the contest or sweepstakes may not be conducted at a winery or brewery’s duplicate tasting room.
* A contest or sweepstakes can only be advertised at a retailer if it is advertised at a minimum of three different retailers, and winners shouldn’t be picked at a licensed retail event nor in a tasting room.

The full presentation by Mr. Botting can be seen here (starting at the 5:00 minute mark).

Before conducting or sponsoring any contest or sweepstakes, be sure to consult the relevant laws, Business & Professions Code Sections 25600.1, 25600.2, and, if applicable, Rule 106 (regarding contests), and pay particular attention to whether the supplier involved holds a license that allows it to participate.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about contests and sweepstakes in California or other states.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Strike & Techel Speaking at Upcoming Conferences

October 15, 2013

Barry Strike will be a presenter at the International Wine Law Association (AIDV) International Conference on October 18-20 in Vienna, Austria. This annual conference brings together speakers and participants from around the world to discuss global strategies for legal issues related to the wine industry. Barry will present on U.S. regulatory agencies available to assist international wine companies.

Kristen Techel will be speaking at the Wine Law Forum on Friday November 22, from 9:00am-5:00pm at Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, California. Kristen will share her expertise on the emerging role of third party providers in a discussion entitled “Third Party Providers: Unlicensed Participants in a Licensed Industry.” The event is co-sponsored by the International Wine Law Association (AIDV).

If you would like more information on the AIDV organization or about either conference, please click here.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Strike & Techel Speaking at Upcoming Conferences

October 15, 2013

Barry Strike will be a presenter at the International Wine Law Association (AIDV) International Conference on October 18-20 in Vienna, Austria. This annual conference brings together speakers and participants from around the world to discuss global strategies for legal issues related to the wine industry. Barry will present on U.S. regulatory agencies available to assist international wine companies.

Kristen Techel will be speaking at the Wine Law Forum on Friday November 22, from 9:00am-5:00pm at Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, California. Kristen will share her expertise on the emerging role of third party providers in a discussion entitled “Third Party Providers: Unlicensed Participants in a Licensed Industry.” The event is co-sponsored by the International Wine Law Association (AIDV).

If you would like more information on the AIDV organization or about either conference, please click here.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Governor Cuomo Signs Law Allowing New York Wine to be Sold at Local Farmers’ Markets

October 10, 2013

On October 1, 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law S. 267/A.1512, creating a new venue for New York wineries to sell their wines to consumers. As of March 26, 2014, farm market stands may apply for a new “roadside farm market license” to sell New York State labeled wine that is produced by no more than 2 licensed farm wineries, micro-wineries or special wineries located within 20 miles of the roadside farmers’ market.

This law is in keeping with Governor Cuomo’s efforts to bolster the New York wine industry. In a statement released after enacting the new law, Governor Cuomo said: “These new laws will build on our continuing efforts to promote New York’s wine industry across the state and beyond, boosting tourism, local economies and job growth. We are increasing market opportunities for local producers and farmers…Our state is home to hundreds of wineries that produce some of the best wine in the world, and we want both New Yorkers and visitors to come and enjoy them.”

The new law does not include tasting privileges at the farm stands, which is probably not surprising, given the possible connection between wine tasting at a roadside stand and driving a car. We’ll be interested to see if other states follow New York’s lead and enact legislation to license farm stands.

For the full text of the new law, click here.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about licensing in New York or any other state.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Clarifications from the ABC on Sweepstakes and Contests in California

October 10, 2013

On June 13, 2013, guests attending ShipCompliant’s “Direct 2013” conference heard from Matthew Botting, General Counsel to the California ABC, on supplier participation in sweepstakes and contests under California’s new law. We’ve previously blogged about the new law here and here.

California Code of Regulations Title 4, Section 106 (“Rule 106”) has always allowed suppliers to “sponsor” a contest, meaning suppliers could give money or otherwise participate when the contest was organized by “bona fide amateur or professional organizations.” Previously, the privilege was limited. Now, the privileges are broader: suppliers (including wineries) can now “conduct” a contest under recently enacted Business and Professions Code Section 25600.1, and conduct or sponsor a sweepstakes under 25600.2. Mr. Botting discussed the different available privileges and their limitations:

* “Conduct” means the promotion is managed and organized by the supplier.

* “Sponsor” means it is someone else’s sweepstakes or contest and the supplier is providing a prize or other sponsorship of the promotion.

* For the time being, suppliers can only sponsor a contest in accordance with the existing Rule 106, which means sponsorship is limited to a contest conducted by bona fide amateur or professional organizations.

Sponsoring a sweepstakes and conducting a sweepstakes or contest is now covered by Business and Professions Code Section 25600.1 and 25600.2Sweepstakes or contests cannot require a visit to a licensed premises of any kind, so there must be an alternate method of entry (“AMOE”) if entry forms are available at a licensee.

* Sweepstakes and contests cannot be conducted on retail premises (e.g., a grocery store, liquor store, bar or restaurant). A “retail premise” includes some locations you might not think of, such as: an unlicensed premises if a licensed caterer is present, or at an event held by a nonprofit under a one-day permit. The ABC considers events held with a caterer’s license or a nonprofit one-day permit to occur “at the premises of a retail licensee,” and therefore a supplier may only provide a means of entry at either of these types of events.

* While suppliers may provide a means of entry for the contest or sweepstakes, the contest or sweepstakes may not be conducted at a winery or brewery’s duplicate tasting room.

* A contest or sweepstakes can only be advertised at a retailer if it is advertised at a minimum of three different retailers, and winners shouldn’t be picked at a licensed retail event nor in a tasting room.

The full presentation by Mr. Botting can be seen here (starting at the 5:00 minute mark).

Before conducting or sponsoring any contest or sweepstakes, be sure to consult the relevant laws, Business & Professions Code Sections 25600.1, 25600.2, and, if applicable, Rule 106 (regarding contests), and pay particular attention to whether the supplier involved holds a license that allows it to participate.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about contests and sweepstakes in California or other states.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


California On Sale General Public Premises (Type 48) Licensees Must Post Human Trafficking Notificat

September 24, 2013

To raise awareness and provide resources to potential victims of human trafficking, California Civil Code Section 52.6 now mandates that, as of April 1, 2013, all On Sale General Public Premises (Type 48) retail licensees, along with certain other types of businesses, must post a notice about human trafficking. The United States Department of State estimates that 14,500-17,500 victims are trafficked into the United States each year, with California as one of the country’s top four destination states.

The notice must be posted in a conspicuous place (near the public entrance or in clear view of the public and employees), measure at least 8.5 inches by 11 inches, and the following message must appear in at least size 16 font:

“If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in any activity and cannot leave—whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work, construction, factory, retail, or restaurant work, or any other activity—call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or the California Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) at 1-888-KEY-2-FRE(EDOM) or 1-888-539-2373 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and California law.

The hotlines are:

Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Toll-free.
Operated by nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations.
Anonymous and confidential.
Accessible in more than 160 languages.
Able to provide help, referral to services, training, and general information.”

This notice must be in English and Spanish, and a model notice is available here. Depending on the county, the notice may also be required in another language. A list of those counties is available here.

For more information on this posting requirement, call the Victim Services Unit at the California Attorney General’s Office toll free: (877) 433-9069.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Facebook Eases Restrictions on Promotions Conducted on Commercial Facebook Pages

September 11, 2013

On August 27, 2013, Facebook announced changes to make it easier for businesses to create and administer promotions on the website. This means any business - including alcohol beverage industry members - can now collect entries for sweepstakes or contests using Facebook itself. Prior to these changes, all promotions on Facebook had to be administered through applications. Now, promotions can be administered on Page Timelines or in applications, though they may not be administered on personal Timelines. For example, now it is possible for businesses to:

- Collect entries by having users post on the company’s Page or comment/like a post

- Collect entries via messages users send to the company’s Page

- Have promotions including a voting element based on likes

You can read more about the changes here. If you have any questions about the ins and outs of using social media as part of the business marketing and promotional plans for companies in the alcohol beverage industry, call one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB Says Alcohol Content Can Move to the Back Label for Wine

June 10, 2013

Announced today, and effective August 9, 2013, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) has announced changes to its labeling requirements for wine. Amending 27 CFR 4.32, the alcohol content for wine no longer must appear on the brand label, and instead it may be printed on the brand label or on other labels affixed to the bottle, including the back label. The TTB also amended 27 CFR 4.36 to the effect that wines with alcohol content of at least 7 percent and no more than 14 percent may still be labeled with either (a) the designation of “light wine” or “table wine” on the brand label, or (b) the numerical alcohol content of the wine. The new amendments do not permit the “light wine” or “table wine” designations to appear on any label other than the brand label. A new COLA is not required if the only change made to an approved label is the relocation of the alcohol content statement. If you have any questions about labeling, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·


Deceptive Retail Discounts: How Much is that Wine Really Discounted?

June 26, 2012

Among the brouhaha surrounding JCPenney these days is a proposed class action complaint that was recently filed in the Central District of California. In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges that she purchased items from JCPenney because the items were advertised as being on sale, but the prices were inaccurately advertised as discounted because the “original” price advertised was not the prevailing market retail price for the goods. As in many states, false and misleading claims in advertising are prohibited in California. See Cal. Bus & Prof. Code §§ 17500, 17508(a). California consumer protection law further state that:

No price shall be advertised as a former price of any advertised thing, unless the alleged former price was the prevailing market price as above defined within three months next immediately preceding the publication of the advertisement or unless the date when the alleged former price did prevail is clearly, exactly and conspicuously stated in the advertisement. Cal. Bus & Prof. Code § 17501.

Here the plaintiff asserts that the “original” prices, to which she compared the “sale” prices in order to make her decision to purchase numerous items, weren’t the prevailing market prices for the items at JCPenney for the three months immediately preceding the advertisement.

Pricing has become more difficult in this day and age of the “bargain.” Many people have come to expect an item to be always on sale or for there to always be some way to buy an item for less than what others are paying. While the pressures this creates on retailers are often great, retail prices cannot be amorphous. Advertising false “sale” prices could lead to lawsuits like the one filed against JCPenney. The Federal Trade Commission offers guidance about proper advertisements on its website, which can be found here. Regarding deceptive pricing, the FTC offers the following:

One of the most commonly used forms of bargain advertising is to offer a reduction from the advertiser’s own former price for an article. If the former price is the actual, bona fide price at which the article was offered to the public on a regular basis for a reasonably substantial period of time, it provides a legitimate basis for the advertising of a price comparison. Where the former price is genuine, the bargain being advertised is a true one. If, on the other hand, the former price being advertised is not bona fide but fictitious—for example, where an artificial, inflated price was established for the purpose of enabling the subsequent offer of a large reduction—the ``bargain’’ being advertised is a false one; the purchaser is not receiving the unusual value he expects. 16 C.F.R. § 233.1.

It’s hard to be a consumer goods retailer in any industry these days, but the wine industry in particular has seen substantial changes in consumer pricing expectations given the economic situation over the last few years. While trying to meet this consumer demand, it’s important to remember that when creating pricing structures, there’s a fine line between providing value and creating false value.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·


New North Carolina Beer Franchise Act Now Effective

June 15, 2012

Revisions to the North Carolina malt beverages franchise act became effective yesterday when the Governor signed Senate Bill 745. Last year’s similar bill was stalled after brewers took issues with some of the terms. Senate Bill 745 is a compromise bill that passed the legislature with wide margins. Among the changes, the new law explicitly states that the meaning of “good cause” for termination purposes cannot be modified from the definition set forth in North Carolina law; however, there is a provision in the law that allows brewers that obtain self-distribution approval from the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission to terminate a wholesaler franchise relationship without good cause if “fair market value for the distribution rights for the affected brand” is paid to the wholesaler. Fair market value is determined not as an average price, but must be “highest dollar amount at which a seller would be willing to sell and a buyer willing to buy.” See Senate Bill 745, § 18B-1305(a1). The bill also revises what constitutes good cause, what factors a supplier may consider when approving an assignment, transfer or merger of a wholesaler, treatment of brand extensions, and prohibited acts by suppliers.

The new law also introduces a mandatory mediation requirement. If a dispute arises among a supplier and a wholesaler that is likely to lead to litigation, then the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission can require the parties to submit to mediation in an effort to resolve the dispute. This requirement may arise solely by the initiative of the Commission, or either party to the dispute may request that the Commission mandate the mediation. See Senate Bill 745, § 18B-1309. This new provision makes North Carolina one of the few states with laws on mediation for resolution of conflicts between beer suppliers and wholesalers. California and Maryland are the only other two states that discuss mediation in their beer franchise acts. See Cal. Bus & Prof. Code § 25000.2; Md. Code Ann. § 21-103.

It remains imperative for suppliers to review a state’s laws and regulations when entering into a distribution agreement and also to give oneself enough time for review and negotiation of the agreement, especially in light of the fact that states like North Carolina are further restricting the ability of suppliers and wholesalers to contract around franchise act laws. For more information about distribution agreements and franchise acts, please see our prior post available here or feel free to contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·


Out-of-State Wine Sales: Going Beyond Direct Shipping

February 06, 2012

In 2005, when Granholm v. Heald was decided by the Supreme Court, the doors to direct shipping wine to consumers opened wider than ever before. But the principles behind Granholm may open more than just the direct shipping avenue. Recently, a California winery stepped down this expanded path by opening a tasting room in Pennsylvania. Several states allow licensed wineries to operate satellite tasting rooms within the state. In Pennsylvania, limited wineries may operate, separately or in conjunction with other limited wineries, up to five additional tasting and off-premises sales locations within the state. No production or bottling is required at those five separate facilities. 47 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5-505.2(a)(3). Virginia has a similar provision allowing licensed farm wineries to sell wine for on- and off-premises consumption at up to five additional retail locations. Va. Code Ann. § 4.1-207(5).

In order to become a licensed limited winery in Pennsylvania a winery must be producing wine from agricultural products grown in Pennsylvania. While this requirement seems to preclude an out-of-state winery from opening a tasting room in Pennsylvania, the Granholm court addressed this issue when it examined New York’s former requirement that only farm wineries, which can only produce wine from agricultural products grown in New York, were allowed the most direct avenue to ship wine to New York consumers. Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460, 476 (2005). In its decision the Court stated, “States may not enact laws that burden out-of-state producers or shippers simply to give a competitive advantage to in-state business.” Id. at 472. Thus, predicating the ability to open a tasting facility where direct sales are allowed on the production of wine solely from in-state grown agricultural products violates the principles of Granholm. In 2010 this exact issue came to heard in New Jersey when a law that allowed in-state wineries to sell directly to consumers from up to six salesrooms apart from the winery premises, while prohibiting out-of-state wineries from similar direct sales activities, was found to violate the dormant Commerce Clause. Freeman v. Corzine, 629 F. 3d 146, 159 (2010). While opening up facilities in other states is a large investment of time and capital that likely would not suit many wineries, it may be a viable strategy for some. Given the rapid changes over the last few years in new paths to consumers, keeping an open mind about ways to grow sales is always a good idea.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·


UPDATE: New Jersey Senate Passes Direct Shipping Bill

December 19, 2011

Updating our post of late last week, the New Jersey Senate last Thursday voted 23 to 13 in favor of Bill S-3172, permitting wineries to ship directly to New Jersey consumers. Now that it has passed the Senate, the New Jersey Assembly has to vote on the bill by January 9, 2012, the last day of the legislative session. Under the bill, New Jersey Farm Wineries, New Jersey Plenary Wineries that produce 250,000 gallons or less of wine a year, and out-of-state wineries that produce 250,000 gallons of wine or less each year and that obtain an out-of-state shipping license would be able to ship up to 12 cases of wine per year to any New Jersey consumer. If passed, New Jersey would become the 39th state to allow direct shipping. Check back in early 2012 for an update!

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


New Law on California Beer Tasting Rooms

August 11, 2011

California beer fans are sure to toast the passage of AB1014, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law on August 1st. The bill, presented by Assemblymen Fletcher (R) and Chesbro (D), amends California’s Health and Safety Code to exempt beer manufacturers’ beer tasting areas from the strict health and sanitation codes applied to food service locations. Beer manufacturers include those holding a beer manufacturer’s license, an out-of-state beer manufacturer’s certificate, or a beer and wine importer’s general license. Wine tasting rooms have been exempt from such provisions for years. The health and sanitation codes are lengthy and expensive to comply with; thus, compliance costs typically outweighed the benefit of a beer tasting room for many brewers, especially small craft operations. Compliance with the new exemption requires that the only foods served on the premises are crackers and pretzels. Additionally, only beer and “prepackaged nonpotentially hazardous beverages” may be offered. A copy of the revised Section 113789 of California’s Health and Safety code is available here.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


We’ve Moved!

July 27, 2011

Strike & Techel has moved offices. We’re still here for all your legal questions about the alcoholic beverage industry, but now you can find us at 556 Commercial Street, San Francisco, CA 94111.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Streamlined COLA Process Announced by TTB

May 09, 2011

In a bid to streamline the Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) process, the TTB has announced that it will no longer examine COLA applications to determine whether the label images included in the applications meet the applicable type size, characters per inch, and contrasting background requirements. They will continue to review all submitted labels for inclusion of mandatory information and exclusion of the prohibited, but the TTB has asked industry members to self police when it comes to the technical character and background requirements. This does not mean, however, that the requirements can now be ignored. In the circular announcing the new policy, the TTB reserved the right to deny and return applications on type size, etc. grounds when it “deems necessary.” To that effect, the following statement will be included on new approved COLA applications:

QUALIFICATIONS: TTB has not reviewed this label for type size, characters per inch or contrasting background. The responsible industry member must continue to ensure that the mandatory information on the actual labels is displayed in the correct type size, number of characters per inch, and on a contrasting background in accordance with the TTB labeling regulations, 27 CFR parts 4, 5, 7, and 16, as applicable.

The official reason TTB has given for making the change in procedure was to reduce the time wasted in the COLA process due to image distortions in submitted electronic files. The good news is that the label approval process should be faster with this new policy in place. But the flip side is that the importers and bottlers submitting COLA applications bear greater responsibility for ensuring the labels are in compliance with the labeling regulations. In addition to reserving the right to reject non-compliant labels, TTB also has the power to revoke COLAs it has previously issued, so non-compliant labels that obtain an approval still could be rejected – even after being applied to bottles. The associated costs and logistics problems of a COLA revocation make it important to continue to pay close attention to the minutiae when creating new labels.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


When Wine is Not Wine for California Tax Purposes

April 14, 2011

Although it has not been extensively covered in the media, those involved in the manufacture and importation of certain wine products should be aware of the California Board of Equalization’s (“BOE”) proposed Regulation 2558.1, involving the definition of “wine” for excise tax purposes in California. The regulation should not affect typical wine producers; however, those that create alternative wine products where a portion of the alcohol within the product is derived from, for example, apples or malt grains, instead of grapes, but the product is marketed as a typical grape wine product, should be aware of the proposed Regulation. Enactment of the Regulation essentially means that a sangria product that is classified as “wine” by the ABC could be classified as a distilled spirit by the BOE, and thus be taxed at $3.30/gallon (the rate for distilled spirits that are 100 proof or less) as opposed to the $0.20/gallon rate applied to wine. That constitutes a tax increase of 1650%. The proposed Regulation would define “wine” for BOE purposes as products that do not include more than .5% alcohol by volume derived from the distillation of fermented agricultural products other than the main agricultural product from which the wine is made. This is different that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s (“ABC”) definition, which defines wine as:

…the product obtained from normal alcoholic fermentation of the juice of sound ripe grapes or other agricultural products containing natural or added sugar or any such alcoholic beverage to which is added grape brandy, fruit brandy, or spirits of wine, which is distilled from the particular agricultural product or products of which the wine is made and other rectified wine products and by whatever name and which does not contain more than 15 percent added flavoring, coloring, and blending material and which contains not more than 24 percent of alcohol by volume, and includes vermouth and sake, known as Japanese rice wine.

Essentially the ABC’s definition looks at wine as a product to which only a certain amount (15%) of “other” material can be added, while the BOE’s definition is based on a requirement that 95.5% of the alcohol in the product be derived from a single commodity. The process of this change began at the BOE’s November 17, 2010 meeting, wherein it authorized an informal rulemaking process and proceeded on an expedited basis. On December 17, 2010, after preparing an initial draft of the proposed change, an interested parties meeting was held. During the meeting, it became clear to the staff that there was an industry divergence regarding what constituted legitimate “blending material” under the ABC’s definition and what should be included under the BOE’s definition. Thus, the BOE decided that further interested party meetings would not be useful and they settled on a BOE definition that did not derive from the blending viewpoint, but rather from the alcohol derivation viewpoint. On February 23, 2011, the final proposed regulation was issued. A 45-day comment period then began and the next step is a public hearing in front of the BOE in May 2011. The proposed Regulation is scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2012.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


State Legislative Update

March 24, 2011

As mentioned earlier this week, there has been a lot of action on the alcoholic beverage industry legislative scene over the last few weeks without even considering the direct shipping related legislation that has been on the scene in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey (for a summary of such legislation see freethegrapes.org). Below is a look at some of the major pieces of state proposed legislation.

Georgia, SB 10 – On March 16, 2011, the Georgia Senate passed SB 10, which would allow for take-away sales of wine and beer on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at eligible retailers. Connecticut, Indiana, and Georgia are the only three states that still have complete bans on all alcohol sales from off-premises retailers on Sundays. More frequently States ban sales of distilled spirits and/or wine on Sundays, if there is a ban at all. If the Bill passes, such alcohol sales would be determined on a local level rather than the state issued ban.

Washington, I-1157, SB 5111 – Privatization efforts are back in full swing in Washington State, which sells distilled spirits only through state run liquor stores. On March 18, 2011, Stefan Scharkansky filed Initiative 1157, the text of which is available here. The Initiative is extensive but overall, it would allow stores that currently sell beer and wine and have no record of safety violations to sell liquor as well. The bill’s author purports that Initiative 1157 is better than Initiatives 1100 (which Scharkansky helped author) and 1105, which were voted down last November, because it would require tighter control of liquor sales than the prior initiatives and also maintain tax revenues. Mr. Scharkansky is not the only one dipping his toes into the waters of Washington privatization. Tom Luce, a business consultant has floated the idea of a private-state partnership where a private company takes over the distribution piece of the liquor business and the state maintains the retail portion. All this action is on top of Senate Bill 5111, introduced by Senators Sheldon, Rockefeller, King, Hobbs, and Litzow, which we covered previously.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Federal Legislative Update

March 22, 2011

In the past few weeks there has been a significant amount of new legislation relating to the alcoholic beverage industry introduced on both the state and federal level. The increased legislative efforts are interesting in light of the fact that in March 1933, 78-years ago, the end of Prohibition was kicked off when Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to pass “The Beer Act,” which was eventually passed on April 7, 1933. The Twenty-First Amendment was ratified nearly eight months later on December 5, 1933. A re-cap of the two most high-profile pieces of federal proposed legislation is below. Later this week we’ll take a look at key pieces of state proposed legislation.

S. 534 – The Brewer’s Employment and Excise Tax Relief Act of 2011, or BEER Act as it is popular referred to, was introduced by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) on March 9, 2011. As of today, the Bill has twenty-three cosponsors. The bipartisan bill would reduce the excise tax paid by small brewers from $7.00 to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels produced each year. Small breweries would then pay $16 per barrel for production above 60,000 and up to two million barrels. Currently, all brewers regardless of size pay $18 per barrel for all production above 60,000 barrels. The Bill would also revise the current definition of “small breweries” from those that produce less than two million barrels per year to those that produce less than six million.

H.R. 1161– Just over a week after S. 534 was introduced, the Community Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2011 was introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) on March 17, 2011. As of today, the Bill has eight cosponsors. The Bill is a re-introduction of H.R. 5034, which was hotly contested last year and eventually abandoned. The Bill, depending on which of the three-tiers one is standing in or closest to, is either about protecting states’ rights to regulate alcohol or about allowing Commerce Clause violations to protect alcohol distributor’s interests. As 2011 progresses we are sure to see the heated debate unfold once again.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Supreme Court Denies Certiorari for Wine Country Gift Baskets.com Case

March 07, 2011

As we mentioned last Monday, the Supreme Court was toying with the decision to grant certiorari to Wine Country Gift Baskets.com, et. al., v. John T. Steen Jr., et. al., a case that dealt with Commerce Clause and Twenty-First Amendment issues as they pertain to wine retailers inside and outside the state of Texas. The Supreme Court Justices took the case to conference three times and today finally issued their order denying certiorari. No reasoning for the certiorari denial was given, although such explanations by the Court are often not provided. This means that the Fifth Circuit decision, which upheld Texas’ law prohibiting out-of-state wine retailers from shipping wine directly to Texas consumers while allowing in-state wine retailers to ship wine directly to Texas consumers, will remain the final decision on the case. If you are interested in reading the Fifth Circuit’s opinion for the case, it can be found here.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Winery Licensing in California

March 03, 2011

The typical license for a winery in California is a Type 02 Winegrower license, but many businesses interested more in marketing wine, or having wine custom crushed to their specifications, instead of actually producing the wine on a bonded wine premises, obtain a combination Type 17/20 license instead. The Type 17 license is a wine and beer wholesaler license, and the type 20 is a retail license for the sale of wine and beer for consumption off the licensed premises. When the licenses are held together, they allow the sale to retailers and consumers of wine only. The combination license does not allow the holder to produce wine. Significantly, California law was changed in 2009 to permit these 17/20 license holders (sometimes called “virtual wineries”) to donate their wines to non-profit organizations. This privilege, previously reserved to licensed producers and importers, enables virtual wineries to participate in wine tastings and other events held by non-profit organizations. The 17/20 license structure and abundance of wineries that do custom crush production in California have made it relatively easy for virtual wineries to succeed and, as a result, we have seen tremendous increases in the 17/20 license model over the last several years.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Still No Certiorari Decision from the Supreme Court on Wine Country Gift Baskets.com Case

February 28, 2011

The pins and needles many in the alcoholic beverage industry were on this morning remain, as the Supreme Court’s orders list issued this morningwas silent on the certiorari decision for Wine Country Gift Baskets.com, et.al., v. John T. Steen, Jr., et.al.Cases are typically distributed among the Supreme Court Justices on Fridays for their conferences, during which they discuss whether or not to grant certiorari. Orders are then typically issued the following Monday. If a case that goes to conference on a Friday is not among the order list published on the following Monday, it usually means the case is being discussed among the Justices, with a few but not a majority, arguing for the grant of certiorari. However, once a case has gone to conference more than once without a subsequent order being issued, it tends to mean that the votes for the certiorari grant are not and will not be there. This is now the second time Wine County Gift Baskets.com, et.al., v. John T. Steen, Jr., et.al. has gone to conference (first on February 18, 2011 and second on February 25, 2011) and not been included in the following Monday’s orders. Thus, it is unlikely that the case will be granted certiorari, although not impossible. If the case is denied certiorari, the Fifth Circuit’s decision will stand. For a summary of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, see our prior post here.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Fanciful Names and the TTB

February 23, 2011

We get lots of questions on the topic of “fanciful names” in the context of certificate of label approvals (COLAs) through the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB). The TTB recently posted a helpful clarification, which we wanted to pass along:

Fanciful Name. Have you ever wondered what information should be entered into the “fanciful name” field on the COLA application? A fanciful name is a term used in addition to the brand name for the purposes of further identifying a product. A fanciful name is mandatory for any malt beverage product that is not known to the trade under a particular designation (27 CFR 7.24(a)) or distilled spirits products that do not meet the standards of identity or does not conform to trade and consumer understanding (27 CFR 5.34(a)). The use of a fanciful name on a flavored wine product or any wine product that meets a standard of identity is not required. Please note that if a fanciful name is used on a flavored wine product, it must appear in direct conjunction with a truthful and adequate statement of composition. (27 CFR 4.34(a))

In other words, if your distilled spirits or beer product does not fall within one of the specifically defined classifications, e.g., whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, beer, lager, ale, porter, stout, etc., then it must be labeled with a “truthful and adequate statement of composition” and a fanciful name in addition to the brand name. This generally occurs when a product starts as a distilled spirit or malt beverage product, but then additional flavorings or ingredients are added and those additional items are not permitted within the standard defined classifications. In the case of wine, the fanciful name is optional. Brand names and fanciful names cannot contain the name of a class or type of alcohol, so “vodka” or “whiskey” cannot serve as a fanciful name.

When a fanciful name is mandatory, it is important to plan ahead when creating a new product name and label. We have seen products identified by a single brand name that could not obtain a label approval because they were required to also have a fanciful name. Applicants in that situation are required to add a new name to be used as a fanciful name and revise their labels so that it is included. An example of a properly identified distilled spirits product is “ABC Brand, Peachy Passion, neutral spirits with added fruit juice and natural flavorings.” It uses a brand name, a fanciful name, and a statement of composition, as required under the labeling regulations. For most products, fanciful names are not required but it’s important to consider how TTB will classify your product before you create your labels and brand identity.
Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Vertical Integration in California (“Tied-House” Laws)

February 17, 2011

The general rule with alcoholic beverage licensing is that you cannot be involved in more than one “tier” of the industry, meaning that suppliers and importers can’t be wholesalers, wholesalers can’t be retailers, retailers can’t be suppliers, and vice versa. The objective, which came about following the repeal of prohibition, was to promote the organized and responsible distribution of alcohol. It was thought that by keeping the three tiers separate, suppliers would not exert undue influence over retailers, consumers would not be encouraged to over consume, and the societal ills that led to prohibition in the first place would not be repeated. In the 75+ years since the creation of the three-tier system, dozens of exceptions have found their way into the California ABC Act. The tiers are no longer entirely separate and some licensees are permitted to hold licenses in other tiers. For example:

12/18 (Distilled Spirits Importer)/(Distilled Spirits Wholesaler)

17/20 (Wine and Beer Wholesaler)/(Wine and Beer Retailer)

9/17/20 (Wine and Beer Importer)/ (Wine and Beer Wholesaler)/(Wine and Beer Retailer)

There are restrictions on operating under each of these combinations, but the ability to hold them in combination remains a privilege available in California that is not available in many other states. The “tied-house” rules have implications that extend well beyond the licensing structure. If you are interested in learning more about tied-house issues, feel free to contact any of the attorneys here at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


TTB’s Permits Online System Up and Running; Expedited Review a Thing of the Past

February 14, 2011

Today the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) launched their Permits Online system, which is available here. The system is a counterpart to the Formulas Online and COLAs Online systems. The Permits Online system allows the application procedure for federal alcohol and tobacco business permits to be completed entirely online. The system allows one to prepare, submit and track applications through the TTB’s online portal, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But as with many technology innovations and advances, there is often a corresponding down side. A few weeks ago, the TTB announced that they are no longer accepting “Expedite Requests” or “Informal Reviews” for certificate of label approvals (COLAs) and formula approvals. The former expedite option allowed for rapid turnaround of approvals that was especially helpful for the industry at large.

With a dramatic increase in approval requests over the years, coupled with shrinking governmental budgets, the TTB decided that all applications will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, without any expedite availability. Further, the TTB stated that applicants should plan for a full 90-day review period, which does not include any additional time that could be necessary if label or formula changes are requested. The TTB did note that online applications are processed about twice as fast as paper applications, so there is a real incentive to using the online portals. If you have an upcoming formula approval or COLA, be sure to factor in enough time for the TTB’s review given that the expedite option is no longer available. If you have questions about formula or label approvals, please feel free to call any of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


California ABC Stakeholder Meeting

February 08, 2011

Last week, partners Barry Strike and Kristen Techel attended the California ABC’s annual Stakeholder Meeting in Sacramento. The meeting covered everything from furlough status and budget to planned action items for 2011 and 2012. Stakeholder working groups were established to further investigate and provide recommendations to the new ABC Director, Jacob Appelsmith. The four groups will cover issues related to Third Party Providers, Brands and Trademarks and other Things of Value, Licensing Process and Industry Training, and Public Convenience or Necessity.

Interestingly, during the meeting Matt Botting, General Counsel to the ABC, indicated they had not seen many applications for the new tasting permit for off-sale retailers, which we originally discussed here and here. If you’re interested in learning more about or applying for the new instructional tasting license, please feel free to contact any of the attorneys here at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Privatization Fight Still Remains Strong in Washington

January 24, 2011

Although Washington State’s two privatization measures, Initiatives 1100 and 1105, were voted down in the November 2010 elections, privatization proponents have not yet given up the fight. A new bill, SB 5111, is currently presented by Washington Senators Steve Hobbs (D), Curtis King (R), Steve Litzow (R), Phil Rockefeller (D), and Tim Sheldon (D). It was introduced on January 14, 2011 and then referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection. The bill would allow voters the opportunity to once again vote on privatizing liquor sales in Washington. Currently, liquor sales are handled by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (“WSLCB”). If the bill passes, the WSLCB’s liquor assets will be sold off and all funds deposited into the general state fund; the state will, however, maintain a revenue stream from the sale of alcohol.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Pay Close Attention: H.R. 5034

June 21, 2010

House Bill 5034 has been making the news since its introduction in mid-April. If you are in the business of alcoholic beverages, you need to be watching this bill. It could be a game changer.

The bill is referred to as the CARE Act, which is short for Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act of 2010. If passed, the bill will strengthen state control over alcoholic beverage regulation by making it nearly impossible to challenge state alcoholic beverage laws, even if there is a conflicting federal law.

Though it is a short bill, it has three very significant elements:

1) State laws are presumed valid

2) Any person challenging a state law has the burden of proving the invalidity of the state law by clear and convincing evidence in all phases of the legal action

3) The state law will be upheld unless the challenging party proves the law has no effect on:

  1. The promotion of temperance
  2. The establishment and maintenance of orderly alcoholic beverage markets
  3. The collection of alcoholic beverage taxes
  4. The structure of the state alcoholic beverage distribution system
  5. The restriction of access to alcoholic beverages by those under the legal drinking age

You can track the bill by entering HR 5034 under “bill number” here: http://thomas.loc.gov/

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.


Strike & Techel: The Movie

June 09, 2010

Before our blog delves into more serious issues related to alcoholic beverages, we thought we’d start with something fun. Please enjoy our movie!


IMBIBE+BLOG

May 30, 2010

Welcome to IMBIBLOG, the blog of Strike & Techel. We are attorneys specializing in the laws and regulations governing alcoholic beverages, also known as liquor law or alcohol law. Liquor law is a specialized area of legal practice. Compared to other areas of legal specialization, there are relatively few lawyers specializing in alcoholic beverage law. If you are considering starting a business related to alcohol, you will benefit from working with a competent liquor lawyer.

The team at Strike & Techel is experienced and can serve as your TTB lawyer, ABC lawyer, beer lawyer, wine lawyer or distilled spirits lawyer. We are familiar with TTB law as well as state ABC law in California and across the country. Preparing and applying for the necessary alcohol beverage licenses is a big part of the alcohol beverage practice and Strike & Techel is highly experienced with ABC license applications and TTB license applications.

We are based in San Francisco and are particularly familiar with the alcohol laws and regulations of our city. The attorneys at our firm practice alcoholic beverage law exclusively. This blog is our place to tell you about current issues of interest for those in the business of making, promoting, and selling alcoholic beverages.


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