Category archives for “Distilled Spirits”

The Burden of Proof: TTB’s Annual Alcohol Sampling Program

April 20, 2016

Most of what consumers know about the alcoholic beverage products they buy comes from their interaction with the label, so it is important to get it right. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), which regulates the labeling of most beverage alcohol products, recently released their annual alcohol beverage sampling program results, highlighting the most common compliance issues with drinks labels in the marketplace. Every year, the TTB conducts a random survey of alcoholic beverage products available for sale to the public. They select a range of brands across the distilled spirits, wine and malt beverage categories, and crosscheck the information on the label against the beverage in the bottle (or can, or alternative packaging). In 2015, well over a third of the distilled spirits and malt beverages surveyed were non-compliant (at 62 out of 154, and 61 out of 158 respectively), and just under a quarter of the wines were non-compliant (at 34 out of 138).

Many of the products in the market were found to have labels that were different from the certificates of label approval (COLAs) that the TTB had issued for those products. The TTB has worked hard in the last few years to balance its limited resources against ever increasing numbers of COLA submissions, and has published a long list of allowable changes that can be made to approved COLAs. However, some changes still require a new COLA. Some of the information on the label can be changed or removed, the shape and color can be altered, and statements and graphics can be moved, but it is difficult to add anything new without getting a new COLA.

Leaving aside COLA compliance, however, far and away the biggest issue identified by the TTB was related to the alcoholic content claims of the products surveyed. Each category of alcoholic beverages has some room to maneuver with the stated alcohol content. In particular, wine and malt beverages have greater tolerances, because the regulations recognize that they are products which can and often do continue to evolve in the bottle. However, even with these permitted tolerances, over 20% of the samples had a stated alcoholic content that was non-compliant. A table wine between 7% and 14% alcohol by volume (ABV), is allowed to be up to 1.5% either above or below the stated alcoholic content on the label (provided the wine remains in the same tax class, below 14%). Wine with over 14% alcohol can still be up to 1% over or under the stated amount. Malt beverages can be up to 0.3% different from the labeled ABV, either higher or lower. In contrast to the permitted variations for wine and beer, distilled spirits are not allowed to contain any alcohol over the stated ABV. The regulations reflect TTB’s view that there is no reason why distilled spirits should not be able to be accurately proofed upon completion of production. Spirits are allowed a small 0.15% tolerance below the labeled amount, which reduction is only to recognize possible losses during bottling. The proofing and gauging of distilled spirits is key to the TTB’s principal aim of protecting the revenue, and is directly linked to how much tax is paid by the producer. The TTB offers a range of resources to help producers and bottlers with that process, and it is important to ensure that care is taken when your product is labeled.

For any questions related to labeling of beverage alcohol, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.


New California Law Creates License for Craft Distilleries, Updates Spirits Tasting Rules

October 13, 2015

On October 8, 2015, California Governor Brown signed the Craft Distilleries Act of 2015 into law, which creates a new license for craft distilleries. AB 1295 is a step forward for craft spirits producers, who will no longer be subject to the same strict restrictions that apply to traditional Distilled Spirits Manufacturers (Type 4 licensees). The new Craft Distiller’s license allows the production of up to 100,000 gallons of distilled spirits each year and also includes several other key privileges not available to larger distilleries that hold Type 4 licenses: Craft Distillers will be able to sell distilled spirits to consumers, operate restaurants from their premises, and hold interests in on-sale retail licenses.

AB 1295 adds several sections to the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, including Business and Professions Code Sections 23500 through 23508. Those sections include the following privileges for Craft Distillers:

  • Manufacture of up to 100,000 gallons of distilled spirits each fiscal year (July 1 – June 30), excluding any brandy the licensee may have produced under a Brandy Manufacturer license. Licensees can also package, rectify, mix, flavor, color, label, and export distilled spirits manufactured by the licensee.
  • Sale of up to 2.25 liters of its distilled spirits per consumer, per day, in conjunction with instructional tastings held on its licensed premises.
  • Operation of a bona fide eating place on its licensed premises or a location contiguous to its premises, from which the licensee may sell beer, wine, and distilled spirits.
  • May hold an interest in up to two California on-sale licenses, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Cannot be issued to anyone who manufactures or has manufactured for him over 100,000 gallons of distilled spirits, whether inside or outside California, excluding any brandy the licensee may have produced under a Brandy Manufacturer license.

The new bill also amends Business and Professions Code Section 23363.1 to allow Craft Distillers to conduct distilled spirits tastings either: a) off their licensed premises at a nonprofit event held under a nonprofit permit; or, b) at their licensed premises under specific conditions. The other notable change to the statute is that tastings can be provided in the form of a cocktail or mixed drink, and the sample size limitation has been changed to one and one-half ounces maximum per consumer per day. Those changes apply to both Craft Distillers and Distilled Spirits Manufacturers.

The new laws take effect January 1, 2016.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have any questions about distillery licenses in California or elsewhere.

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


Compliance Check-In: 2014 TTB Beverage Sample Program Results

February 02, 2015

Each year, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), conducts a random sampling of alcoholic beverages, known as the Alcohol Beverage Sample Program. TTB agents purchase alcohol products from retail stores and take them back to the TTB lab for review. The survey identifies compliance issues with the tested beverages, including incorrect alcohol content levels, and Certificate of Label Approval (COLA) discrepancies. The TTB recently released the results of their 2014 review, finding 139 out of 450 total products sampled to be non-compliant.

The most commonly identified issue was mislabeled alcohol percent by volume (ABV), in which the ABV stated on the label was either above or below the actual tested alcohol content. In distilled spirits products, 42 of the 190 beverages sampled were found to contain an ABV over the advertised content, while 14 products contained a lower ABV than advertised. Aside from misleading the consumer, incorrect ABVs can lead to regulatory action from federal tax authorities if the actual alcohol content would place the product in a different tax class.

Another common compliance issue was a discrepancy between the product’s label information and the information listed on the product’s COLA. When a bottler or importer applies for label approval with the TTB, they are issued a COLA and their product’s label must match the information provided on their COLA application (with the exception of some limited information which can be changed without a new COLA). Of the 139 non-compliant products, 40 had labels with missing or added information that did not match their approved COLA.

Other prevalent compliance issues included no COLA for the product, errors in the mandatory government warning message, and incorrect statements of class or type of alcohol. Possible TTB actions in response to incorrectly labeled products could include monetary fines and other regulatory penalties, and at a minimum, would require that the non-compliant labels be corrected. To see the full results of the sample program, click here.

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 ·


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 ·


Kentucky Changes Alcohol Beverage Laws – Requires Out of State Shipper’s Licenses for Wine and Spiri

August 14, 2013

With the passage of Senate Bill 13 (“SB 13”), effective June 25, 2013, Kentucky modernized its alcoholic beverage laws in an effort to make them more effective and efficient for manufacturers, distributors and retailers alike. This modernization included consolidating licenses, simplifying the licensing process, and most importantly for out of state wine and spirits suppliers, it created an out of state shipper permit. Prior to the revisions, beer suppliers were required to hold a license to ship to Kentucky distributors but suppliers of distilled spirits and wine were not.

The new Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producers/Supplier license application is available here: http://abc.ky.gov/License%20Applications%202013/outofstate.pdf

Three classes of the new Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producers/Supplier license are available:

- Out of State Producer/Supplier for 50,000 gallons or more ($1,550 a year/$3,100 for 2 years);
- Limited Producer/Supplier for 2,001 to 49,999 gallons ($260 a year/$520 for 2 years); and
- Micro-Producer/Supplier for 2,000 gallons or less ($10 a year/$20 for 2 years).

Below are some of the other key changes ushered in by the passage of SB 13:

- Consolidates 88 different license types into 44, changing the names of the licenses and fees associated with each, but keeping unchanged the privileges afforded to the licensees. A few examples: A “Vintner” license is now a “Winery” license, a “Blender’s” license was eliminated and its privileges consolidated into the “Rectifier’s” license.
- Allows a two-year license term renewal for manufacturers and wholesalers, in addition to a one-year license option.
- Bundles together several non-quota retail-drink licenses.
- Creates a Transporter license, consolidating six former transportation-related licenses into one.
- Eliminates bond requirements for many license types
- Changes the licensing structure for microbreweries.

For more information on the changes to Kentucky’s alcohol beverage laws, visit the Kentucky Liquor Control’s information page at http://www.klc.org/UserFiles/files/KACOinfosheet.pdf

And of course, you can always call one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have any questions about any of the changes to Kentucky’s alcohol beverage laws, or if you have any general questions about shipping to distributors in any state.

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


Formulas Online a Useful Tool for Pre-COLA Evaluations

June 12, 2012

TTB is now offering Formulas Online, a web-based system for submitting and tracking formula submissions for domestic and imported alcoholic beverages and nonbeverages. Formulas Online follows COLAs Online, which was implemented several years ago as an online option for filing and tracking COLA Applications. The feature is a welcome arrival and should be much more efficient and provide for better tracking than the paper submission system of formulas. One of the most useful changes is that applications are verified throughout the process, meaning that errors can be corrected before an application is finalized, rather than finding out weeks after a submission that an application was not properly submitted. Submissions with Formulas Online can be made using the same user ID used to access COLAs Online. New users should be sure to review the TTB’s helpful reference guide, found here, which walks through the Formulas Online process in detail, and includes a list of common errors.

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


What Can I Do With the Type 85 ABC License?

April 20, 2012

We’ve been getting lots of inquiries about the privileges and limitations of the new limited off-sale license offered by the ABC. Though we’ve already commented on the basics of the permit here, we’re following up with answers to the clarification questions we’ve been getting:

Where can I find the privileges for the new off-sale wine license?

Read the ABC Advisory and the enabling statute CAL. BUS. & PROF. CODE §23393.5.

Can I sell tequila and beer with the Type 85?

No, the privilege is limited to wine.

Can I get the Type 85 license if I have an upper-tier California license?

No. The Type 85 is a retail-tier license, and there are no special exceptions permitting it to be held with an upper-tier license. On the flip side, you can get it if you are an employee of an on-sale retailer. This is a key distinction between the Type 85 and the Type 17/20 combination that remains popular in California.

Can I deliver product stored out-of-state directly to consumers in California with the Type 85?

No. You must have possession and title to the wine in California. It must be delivered to the consumer from your licensed premises in California or the premises of a licensed public warehouse (Type 14 License).

Can I deliver wine to consumers outside of California with the Type 85?

Yes, but only to about 13 states. 2/3 of those states require additional licensing. You can’t reach New York, Texas, Illinois or Florida.

Do I have to have a location to obtain the Type 85?

Yes. You have to choose an address where the license will be active and your records will be kept. It may not be open to the public. You will have to post notice at the premises and mail notice to nearby neighbors.

Who can I buy wine from with the Type 85?

Licensed California wholesalers and wineries. Not retailers.

How do I apply for the Type 85?

If you are interested in obtaining the license, you need to fill out the forms for an original retail license (e.g. ABC 211-SIG, 217, 208-A/B, 253, 257, 255, 247, 251, 140, entity forms). You can obtain them from the ABC website, or can hire an attorney or licensing specialist to complete them and assist you with the process. The filing fee is $342 ($100 application fee plus $242 annual fee).

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


TTB Proposed Revisions to Distilled Spirit Plants Reports and Regulations

January 23, 2012

Currently, distilled spirits plants (DSPs) are required to complete and file operational report forms, which can number up to seven per month. The TTB has proposed eliminating the current forms and replacing them with two new report forms (TTB F 5110.77 and TTB F 5110.78) in order to streamline the reporting process and reduce costs. According to the TTB’s research, DSPs currently submit an average of 28.4 operational reports per year. The TTB notes that certain data within the required reports is not analyzed or used. Moreover, the increased use of alcohol as a fuel and the growth in artisanal distillers has resulted in many new DSPs and the corresponding burden on TTB to process the paperwork from these DSP has grown tremendously. If the proposal is approved, one report would be used for operations involving spirits for beverage use, while the other would handle reporting on industrial use spirits. Additionally, DSPs that submit quarterly tax returns could switch to quarterly operational reporting, as opposed to the current monthly reporting requirement. The comment period for this proposed revision runs through February 3, 2012, which is right around the corner. The full text of the proposal can be found here.

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


New Social Media Marketing Guidelines for Alcohol

September 22, 2011

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the self-regulatory group for the U.S. distilled spirits industry, just released new guidelines for advertising distilled spirits online. The guidelines were drafted in cooperation with the European Forum for Responsible Drinking, which is the European counterpart to DISCUS.

The full guidelines are available here, and include lots of common sense strategies for responsible online marketing, e.g. identify marketing as such, provide and honor a privacy policy for user data, age gate, market only to adults, and include social responsibility statements. The guidelines also get specific, instructing advertisers to only place ads in media where 71.6% of the audience is the legal drinking age. Recent Nielsen data shows Facebook at 82% 21+, Twitter at 87% 21+ and YouTube at 81% 21+.

Digital marketing communications that are intended to be forwarded by users, such as with a share, download or email “button click”, should include instructions to individuals downloading the content that they should not forward these materials to individuals below the legal purchase age. On a related note, if users provide content on the advertiser’s site or a site controlled by the advertiser, the advertiser should be monitoring and moderating the content every day, or at a minimum once every five business days, to remove inappropriate content.

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


Spirits Tastings Approved In Tennessee

June 27, 2011

Earlier this month, Tennessee became the 35th state to allow spirits tastings, with the passage of Senate Bill 1224, which will permit restaurants, bars, and liquor stores to offer limited alcohol sampling. The bill, which was signed into law on June 10thand is codified at Tennessee Code Annotated Section 57-3-404(h)(2), will allow spirits retailers to conduct tastings for “sales, education, and promotional purposes.” Similar to tasting laws in most other states, spirits wholesalers may not take part in the events, and are specifically precluded from directly or indirectly providing any “products, funding, labor, support or reimbursements to a retailer.” The Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission will be establishing rules specifying how tastings must be conducted.

Tennessee is among a growing list of states that have authorized limited tastings since 2009, joining California, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

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


Have Wine, Will Travel

February 25, 2011

It is called everything from the bombastic “corkage” to the everyperson “BYOB,” but it means the same across all fifty states and beyond: bringing ones own bottle of alcohol to a restaurant for consumption with ones meal. Not every state allows the practice, but Virginia is on the brink of joining the list of states where brown-bagging is permissible. On February 8th, the Virginia Senate passed SB 1292 (27-Y, 13-N) and the bill passed the House on February 22nd (78-Y, 18-N), leaving only Governor Robert McDonnell’s signature to make it official. The bill was introduced by Republican state Senator Jeffrey McWaters, who argued passage of SB 1292 would help boost Virginia’s restaurant and wine industries. SB 1292 will add Section 16 to § 4.1-201(A) of the Code of Virginia, thereby allowing licensed restaurants to permit customers to consume legally acquired wine on a restaurant premises and allowing the restaurant to charge a corkage fee if desired.

Each state that allows BYOB has its own unique set of regulations. Virginia’s neighbor to the South, North Carolina, has a “brown-bagging” permit, which allows customers in permitted establishments to bring and consume on the premises “up to eight liters of fortified wine or spirituous liquor, or eight liters of the two combined.” Restaurants, hotels and community theaters are only allowed such permits if they are located in a county where the sale of mixed beverages has not been approved. Eight liters of fortified wine, which in North Carolina is defined as 16-24% alcohol by volume, or distilled spirits, may seem like an exorbitant amount of alcohol. However, unlike Virginia’s SB 1292, North Carolina’s law is not about enjoying a glass of ones own wine with dinner, but rather about consuming a gin and tonic at ones local haunt when such establishment is not allowed by law to sell gin. Attending “liquor locker” provisions in North Carolina allow patrons to store their brown-bagged alcohol in individual lockers at licensed facilities, so that they can drain their provisions over time. Traditional bottle opening fees do not apply in such situations, rather the restaurant makes money selling the mixer used by the patron, commonly referred to as a “set-up.”

The North Carolina arrangement would be defined as an illegal “bottle club” in California. California only allows people to bring their own alcohol to a licensed premises, and one can only bring alcohol that could have been sold by the licensee at the establishment. So if a restaurant only sells beer and wine, one cannot bring in vodka. Also, in California any unfinished portion of the BYOB must be left at the restaurant, so if you bring a bottle of expensive wine to a restaurant, bring enough friends to drink it all!

As we head into the weekend, we’ll leave you to ponder these burning questions: Is it counterintuitive for California to forbid people from bringing wine to restaurants that do not serve it, but permit patrons to bring wine to restaurants with the exact same bottle available for sale on their wine list? Also, who pays more in BYOB alcohol costs—North Carolina patrons bringing in eight liters of distilled spirits or New York patrons (blind item) dining at a well known restaurant with a $90 corkage fee?

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 ·


Alcoholic Whipped Cream: More Than Just a Dessert Topping

December 14, 2010

This holiday season, thousands of households will be checking “whipped cream” off their shopping lists. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB, wants to make sure those households are putting the right product in their cart come shopping time. A handful of whipped cream products made with alcohol have popped up over the last year. The products are typically made with grain alcohol and look like traditional whipping cream. But they pack an alcoholic punch of around 16% alcohol per volume, or a little over 30 proof. Such items are not considered food products, but rather alcoholic beverages. As one manufacturer stated in the FAQ section of its website, they’ve never had the product tested for caloric content as it is “not a food product and is not subject to FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] labeling requirements; it is an alcoholic beverage.”

The fact that the product is an alcoholic beverage as opposed to a food product means it is regulated by the TTB. For more information on the TTB’s relationship with the FDA, refer back to our post on caffeinated alcoholic beverages. As the TTB reminded producers last week, all alcoholic beverage products must abide by federal labeling requirements that prohibit consumer deception. Product labels for distilled spirits are required to have a statement of the class, type and alcoholic content, along with the government warning required by 27 U.S.C. 215, among other things. Additionally, such manufacturers must comply with Federal Alcohol Administration Act, or FAA, advertising laws and the various relevant state regulatory laws. If you are of the legal drinking age and decide to try one of these alcoholic whipped cream products this holiday season, just remember, as always, to imbibe in moderation.

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


Update on New Sampling Rules at Retail Stores in California

December 07, 2010

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the new permit available to California off-premise consumption retailers that will allow suppliers to come to their premises and conduct instructional consumer tastings. The ABC just released an industry advisory with additional helpful information. The industry advisory is available here.

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


Alcoholic Energy Drinks are Out, What’s Next?

December 06, 2010

At this point, we’ve all recovered from the landslide ban on alcoholic energy drinks that crossed the U.S. in November. We covered the opening act, here, when Michigan, quickly followed by Washington, banned the sale of alcoholic energy drinks. New York then reached an agreement with certain suppliers and distributors that halted caffeinated malt beverage sales in that state (review our coverage here). After that, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued warning letters to four caffeinated alcoholic beverage companies. The letters warned those producers that caffeine added to their malt alcohol beverage products constitutes an “unsafe food additive.”

Substances added to food products, which includes beverages, are considered food additives and are subject to review and approval by the FDA, unless the substance is specifically excluded from the definition of “food additive,” has been sanctioned by the FDA, or is recognized by qualified experts as adequately safe when used as intended. This third category is referred to as Generally Recognized as Safe or GRAS.

As many know, the FDA isn’t the usual stop for federal regulation of alcoholic beverages, but rather the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) which operates under the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act). In this instance, the FDA’s statements meant that the beverages in question were considered adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). The TTB takes the position that adulterated beverages, even if their formulas and labels have been approved by the TTB, are mislabeled under the FAA Act. This means that shipping and selling such beverages violates the FAA Act, which can result in license revocations and misdemeanor penalties. As the TTB stated, “…each producer and importer of alcohol beverages is responsible for ensuring that the ingredients in its products comply with the laws and regulations that FDA administers. TTB’s approval of a label or formula does not imply or otherwise constitute a determination that the product complies with the FFDCA, including a determination as to whether the product is adulterated because it contains an unapproved food additive.”

Producers of alcoholic energy drinks likely thought their products fell under the GRAS status. The FDA’s announcement ended that assumption. The question is, what other assumptions might it have ended? Alcoholic beverage producers have been using caffeine in their products for years, the most popular being coffee. In the FDA’s Questions and Answers section about the warning letters, it states that the letters are not directed at “alcoholic beverages that only contain caffeine as a natural constituent of one or more of their ingredients, such as a coffee flavoring.” However, in that same section the FDA also stated that, “Other alcoholic beverages containing added caffeine may be subject to agency action in the future if the available scientific data and information indicate that the use of caffeine in those products is not GRAS. A manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that its products, including the ingredients of its products, are safe for their intended use and are otherwise in compliance with the law.” Further, the TTB stated that if requested by the FDA, it would share “formulas for beers containing added caffeine that are approved under 27 CFR Part 25 [TTB regulations].” In the upcoming months, and perhaps years, it will be interesting to see how the GRAS standard is applied to other alcoholic beverages containing some form of caffeine.

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


California Sampling at Retail Stores

November 22, 2010

Effective January 1, 2011, California off-sale retailers will be eligible for a $300 instructional tasting license that will allow wine, beer and spirits suppliers to conduct free consumer tastings on the retail premises.

The instructional tasting license will be available to most off-sale retailers. Off-sale retailers with a gas station are not eligible unless the retail store is over 10,000 sq. ft. Premises under 5,000 sq. ft. are not eligible unless 75% of gross sales on the premises are alcohol. This will tend to exclude convenience stores and small markets but will enable small wine and liquor stores to obtain the license. Permits may also be denied to retailers in “overconcentrated” areas, i.e., locations with more than the statutorily authorized number of ABC licenses.

Retailers obtaining the permit must separate the tasting area with a barrier and post signage prohibiting minors from entering the tasting area. The retailer is responsible for making sure no minors are in the tasting area and no open containers leave the tasting area. Tastings may only be conducted between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., provided the retail license allows sale of alcohol within that time period.

The tastings must be free, and sample size is limited as follows:

Sample Limitations
Beer 8 oz. per person per day
Wine 3 tastings per person per day, 1 oz. per sample
Spirits 3 tastings per person per day, ¼ oz. per sample

Each tasting event can only involve one class of product and one “authorized licensee” tasting per retailer per day, so a single tasting event may not combine beer and wine tastings or multiple suppliers. “Authorized licensees” who may conduct the tastings are California licensed: winegrowers, winegrower’s agents, beer and wine importer generals, beer and wine wholesalers, wine rectifiers, distilled spirits manufacturers, distilled spirits manufacturer’s agents, distilled spirits importer generals, distilled spirits rectifiers, distilled spirits general rectifiers, rectifiers, out-of-state distilled spirits shipper’s certificate holders, distilled spirits wholesalers, brandy manufacturers, brandy importers, California brandy wholesalers, beer manufacturers, or an out –of-state beer manufacturer certificate holders.

The alcohol tastes are to be served by the “authorized licensee” or her/his agent. The exception is that beer and wine wholesalers, though “authorized licensees”, may not serve tastes unless they hold additional licenses. Wine and spirits for the tasting may be supplied by the “authorized licensee” or bought from the retailer at the original invoiced cost. Beer cannot be provided by an “authorized licensee”, but may be purchased from the retailer at invoice cost. Unused product must be removed at the conclusion of the tasting.

An “authorized licensee” must be present for the tasting, unless the event has been previously advertised and the “authorized licensee” can’t attend. On that note, the “authorized licensee” can advertise the retailer event in advance, subject to restrictions. Retailers are also allowed to advertise the events on their own initiative. Special rules apply if the off-sale retailer already has a Type 42 on-sale license for a tasting bar.

For the complete rules, see Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §23396.6 and §25503.56.

If you would like assistance in applying for the instructional tasting license, please contact licensing paralegal Lindsay McCarthy at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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


The Votes are In: Washington Remains a Control State

November 09, 2010

There was a lot of shake-up in Congress this election season, but things stay the same for Washington’s alcoholic beverage system. Washington remains one of 18 “control” states, which hold broad reign over the wholesale distribution of alcohol. Further, Washington remains one of 12 states that are involved in the retail distribution of alcohol.

Initiatives 1100 and 1105 would have privatized the state’s liquor distribution and sales system. Initiative 1100 would have made sweeping changes to Washington’s alcoholic beverage laws, not only privatizing liquor sales, but eliminating many of the state’s distribution regulations, including price controls, restrictions on volume discounts, and prohibitions against paying on credit for beer and wine sales. Initiative 1105 was less expansive. It called for a privatization of the liquor sales systems, but left most of the distribution laws regarding beer and wine intact, although it relaxed such distribution laws related to liquor.

The two campaigns were at odds with each other. Initiative 1100 was backed largely by Costco Wholesale Corp., while Initiative 1105 was backed mostly by beer and wine distributors. Unions, including the Washington State Council of Firefighters, came out against both initiatives, arguing they would result in more access to alcohol throughout the state and greater public safety concerns.

Both measures failed, though it was a close race for Initiative 1100. Initiative 1100 received a 53.21% “No” vote to 46.79% “Yes.” Initiative 1105 received a 64.51% “No” vote to 35.49% “Yes.” Despite what was surely a significant financial investment in both initiatives by their respective supporters, for the time being it’s business as usual in Washington State.

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


Watch Out for Hidden Issues When Food and Drink Combine

October 26, 2010

Food and drink often go hand in hand, but when they become one, problems related to California’s rectification laws can arise. In early 2010, several bars in San Francisco were hit with a rude awakening when agents from California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Department informed them that serving house-made infused alcoholic beverages could be considered illegal under section 23355.1 of California’s Business & Professions Code. The code section deals with distilled spirits manufacturers and their agents. Part (b) of the code reads:

“A distilled spirits manufacturer, distilled spirits manufacturer’s agent, distilled spirits rectifier general, or rectifier may store, bottle, cut, blend, mix, flavor, color, label, and package distilled spirits owned by another distilled spirits manufacturer, distilled spirits manufacturer’s agent, distilled spirits rectifier general, rectifier, or a distilled spirits wholesaler, and may deliver those distilled spirits from the premises where stored, bottled, cut, blended, mixed, flavored, colored, labeled, or packaged, or from a warehouse located in the same county as that premises for the account of the owner of those distilled spirits to any licensee that owner would be authorized to deliver to under his or her own license, except to a retail licensee.”

Essentially, the code requires a license to be a distilled spirits rectifier, however, such a license cannot be granted to establishments that hold on-sale or off-sale licenses. The law, which seems to have originated in order to ensure that patrons received the actual beverage they ordered, as opposed to a watered down version of such beverage, can be read broadly to ban infused alcohol items that sit for longer than an ordinary cocktail mixing period of a few minutes. The house-made bitters and infused alcohols that can be found on many Bay Area menus can be seen as falling into this category.

In 2008, the ABC issued this advisory warning against engaging in rectification without a permit. Business owners met with Senator Mark Leno and ABC officials in March of 2010 to discuss the wording of the law and enforcement issues. It appears that as a result of the meeting ABC will back away from enforcing the provision; however, until the law is changed to clear up the wording, it remains an issue. Given the Bay Area’s adventurous food and drink scene, it is important to remember that when food and alcohol combine, even in ways that may seem minor, new and often unheard of regulations can be triggered. Make sure you’re thinking about these issues when developing a drink menu, after all if ABC is thinking about it, you should be too.

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


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