Category archives for “Regulations”

Federal Definition of “Hard Cider” Will Be Expanded in 2017

January 18, 2016

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (“PATH Act”) (LINK). The PATH Act provides for changes to the definition of “hard cider,” which will bring valuable tax rate changes for some makers of cider and perry. Currently, “hard cider” is defined as a “still wine derived primarily from apples or apple concentrate and water, containing no other fruit product, and containing at least one-half of 1 percent and less than 7 percent alcohol by volume.” 26 U.S.C. § 5041(b)(6). Because the current definition of hard cider states that the wine must be still, the definition excludes ciders with carbonation in excess of 0.392 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters. 26 U.S.C. § 5041(a). The current definition also excludes perry, which is wine made from pears. Finally, the alcohol content of many wines made from cider apples ranges from approximately 5% to 8.5% alcohol by volume, and cider products with more than 7% alcohol do not meet the current hard cider definition.

Beverages that meet the definition of hard cider are taxed at the rate of 22.6 cents per gallon. 26 U.S.C. § 5041(b)(6). This rate is much more favorable than the $1.07 per gallon tax rate on still table wines, as well as the $3.40 per gallon tax rate on sparkling wines, and the $3.30 per gallon tax on artificially carbonated wines. 26 U.S.C. § 5041(b). Passage of the PATH Act will be welcome news to the cider and perry producers who have advocated for an expansion of the definition of hard cider in order to get the lower tax rate. Beginning on January 1, 2017, the definition of hard cider will be a wine that meets the following parameters:

  • Contains not more than 0.64 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 milliliters;
  • Made from apples, pears, or concentrate of apples or pears and water;
  • Contains no other fruit product or fruit flavoring other than apple or pear; and
  • Contains at least 0.5% and less than 8.5% alcohol by volume.

For more information on cider and perry, see our July 29, 2015 blog post “Comparing Apples and Pears” (LINK), and contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel for further guidance.


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 ·


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 ·


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 ·


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 ·


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 ·


Taking Advantage of the California Sweepstakes and Contests Laws

May 14, 2013

As most alcohol suppliers are now aware, California added two new statutes this year permitting alcohol suppliers to conduct contests and sweepstakes that are open to California residents. California had long been the only U.S. state that prohibited alcohol suppliers from including its residents in these kinds of promotions, but that changed in January. We previously blogged about these new laws here. The new laws offer suppliers new avenues to conduct promotions in California but it’s important to note that only specifically listed types of supplier licensees are authorized to conduct contests and sweepstakes in California. Authorized licensees are: winegrower (Type 2 License), beer and wine importer general (Type 10 License), beer manufacturer (Type 1 License), out-of-state beer manufacturer certificate holder (Type 26 License), distilled spirits manufacturer (Type 4 License), distilled spirits manufacturer’s agent (Type 5 License), distilled spirits importer general (Type 13 License), distilled spirits general rectifier (Type 24 License), rectifier (Type 7 License), out-of-state distilled spirits shipper’s certificate holder (Type 28 License), brandy manufacturer (Type 3 License), and brandy importer (Type 11 License).

The statutes specifically exclude wholesalers (Type 17 and 18 Licenses) and retailers of all types. They also exclude beer and wine importer general (Type 10 License) and distilled spirits importer general (Type 13 License) licensees that hold “only a wholesaler’s or retailer’s license as an additional license.” So, although the laws include Type 10 and Type 13 importers, those licensees would be excluded if they also hold a wholesaler’s license and no other supplier license. Accordingly, holders of the popular 9/17/20 license combination, and holders of 10/17 and 13/18 combinations are not eligible to conduct contests or sweepstakes under the new provisions. The exception to this would be if they hold another specifically included license type, such as a winegrower’s license.

We received a number of calls from suppliers unclear on whether they are included in the new laws so we hope this post helps to clarify. If you have any questions about the contest/sweepstakes laws or other promotional activities, in California or elsewhere, 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 ·


Beer Suppliers and Distributors May Now Preannounce Retail Visits in Texas

February 11, 2013

On February 7, 2013 the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (“TABC”) issued an advisory, MPA053, entitled Promotional Activity Prearrangement/Preannouncement for Beer, which announces an amendment to 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 45.113, allowing beer manufacturers and distributors to prearrange and preannounce promotions at all on and off premise retail locations. Existing law (Tex. Alco. Bev. Code Ann. § 102.07(g)) permits distilled spirits and wine manufacturers and wholesalers to prearrange and preannounce promotional activities at retail premises (see MPB023), but beer manufacturers and wholesalers were excluded. Bar spending, sampling, appearances by agents, etc., could not be prearranged with the retailer or preannounced to consumers for beer; they had to be spontaneous. With this amendment, beer manufacturers and distributors are put on equal footing with spirits and wine suppliers and will be allowed to preannounce, or advertise, their promotional activities to consumers by means of email, TV, print, and digital media. These announcements may include event details, such as the date, time and location of the event. The amendment will enable beer manufacturers and distributors to more effectively prearrange their promotional activities.

The attorneys at Strike & Techel are available to answer questions about promotions and other industry trade practices.

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


TTB Allows Beer Returns Based on Freshness Dating

December 19, 2012

In response a request from industry members, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) recently issued Ruling 2012-4, which addresses whether brewers may require wholesalers to pull beer from retailers that is past its freshness date and replace it with fresh beer. Many beers now include freshness dates, and some brewers ask distributors to remove beer from the retail market that is past its freshness date. Brewers argue that this ensures that consumers get fresh product, but the practice is arguably at odds with laws prohibiting consignment sales.

The FAA act makes it unlawful for industry members, including beer producers, importers, and wholesalers, to sell, offer for sale, or contract to sell to any retailer on consignment, under conditional sale, with the privilege of return, or on any basis otherwise than a bona fide sale. See 27 U.S.C. § 205(d). There are limited exceptions to this prohibition, but only for those “ordinary and usual commercial reasons” included in 27 C.F.R. §§ 11.32 – 39. The limited exceptions when an industry member may accept a return include: a) defective product, b) shipment error, c) change in law preventing the sale of a product, d) termination of the buyer’s business or franchise, e) change in product from that held in inventory, and f) possible spoilage of product during the off-season of a seasonal retailer.

None of the exceptions to the consignment sales law clearly applies to returns based on freshness dating, thus prompting the TTB’s Ruling. The Ruling makes clear that under certain conditions, returns based on freshness dating are permitted under the exception for “defective products” found in 27 C.F.R. § 11.32. Those conditions are as follows:

- The brewer has policies and procedures in place that specify the date after which the retailer must pull the product;

- The brewer’s freshness return/exchange policies and procedures are readily verifiable and consistently followed by the brewer;

- The container has identifying markings that correspond with this date; and

- The malt beverage product pulled by the retailer may not re-enter the retail marketplace.

Finally, the TTB noted that wholesalers may not force retailers to overstock the wholesaler’s products under the pretext that the retailer may exchange product based on the freshness date, and that such practices would violate consignment sale and tied-house laws.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have any questions about TTB rules and regulations.

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 ·


Extended Comment Period on TTB Notice 109: Use of Winemaking Terms

January 14, 2011

The deadline has been extended for comments on the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau’s (“TTB”) proposed amendment to regulations regarding common winemaking terms used on wine labels and advertisements. Written comments are now due by March 4, 2011. The TTB set out their proposed new regulations in Notice 109, “Use of Various Winemaking Terms on Wine Labels and in Advertisements”, published November 3, 2010 in the Federal Register. The comment period was extended at the request of Napa Valley Vintners (“NVV”). NVV has formed a subcommittee to research and survey members on the proposed new regulations.

There are four main proposals set forth by the TTB in Notice 109. First, the TTB proposes requiring the use of the terms “estate grown,” “estate,” and “estates” to meet the higher threshold definition it currently ascribes to “estate bottled.” Second, the TTB proposes codifying its policy of only allowing the terms “proprietor grown” and “vintner grown” if 100% of the grapes used in a wine are grown on vineyards owned or controlled by the bottling winery. Third, the TTB proposes to codify its current position that “single vineyard” may only be used when 100% of the grapes used in the wine come from one vineyard. Further, it would extend that reasoning to the terms “single orchard,” “single farm,” and “single ranch.” Fourth, the TTB is considering codifying definitions for the following terms: “Proprietors Blend,” “Old Vine,” “Barrel Fermented,” “Old Clone,” “Reserve,” “Select Harvest,” “Bottle Aged,” and “Barrel Select.” The TTB made the proposals in an effort to ensure that consumers are not misled by wine labels and advertising. Should these changes occur the TTB could revoke its approval of previously approved labels.

The Federal Alcohol Administration Act (“FAA Act”) sets forth the regulations for alcohol labeling and advertisements, including wine. The TTB is responsible for the administration of the FAA Act and the promulgation of regulations thereunder. The specific wine labeling and advertising regulations can be found in Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

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


ABC VIOLATION ROUND-UP: Failure to Observe License Conditions

January 03, 2011

The California ABC actively enforces the alcoholic beverage laws of the state. We’ve been posting a series of “ABC Violation Round-Up” items discussing some of the violations we have seen in recent enforcement actions.

This week….. failure to observe license conditions.

The Violation: It is common for the ABC to issue a conditional license, particularly when issuing a retail license in an over-concentrated or high-crime area. A conditional license contains restrictions in excess of the rules typically applicable to a license of that type. For example, a conditional license might restrict operating hours, prohibit loitering, or restrict the sale of single cans of beer or malt liquor. If a conditional license is issued, the printed conditions must be available for review upon request by any ABC investigator and all listed conditions must be followed. Failure to comply with any condition is grounds for ABC discipline, which can include license revocation.

How to Avoid It: If you have a conditional license, make sure the printed conditions are kept in a secure place at the licensed premises and are available upon request by the ABC or other law enforcement personnel. Make sure the limitations are reviewed with all of your employees and that they understand the importance of compliance. Take particular time to review the conditions with employees who have worked at an alcoholic beverage licensee in the past. Since conditions are license-specific, they may have worked under different restrictions in their prior employment.

Petition to Remove Condition: If a conditional license has been in place for a year or more, and the grounds that led to imposition of a condition no longer exist, it may be possible to petition the ABC to have the condition removed from the license. Our firm routinely files Petitions to Remove Conditions and any of our attorneys can discuss the process with you.

Statute: California Business and Professions Code § 23804

Standard Penalty: 15 day suspension with 5 days stayed for one year. Penalties vary depending on the specific condition violated.

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


2011 New Year’s Resolutions: Employee Training on Sales to Minors

December 17, 2010

If it’s not already there, move employee training to the top of the resolution list for 2011. In January, California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) will begin awarding grants to local law enforcement agencies to continue the implementation of Minor Decoy and Shoulder Tap programs. The operational period for the grants and this round of programs will run from February 1, 2011 through June 30, 2011. California law enforcement has been using the Minor Decoy program since the 1980s. For details on the Minor Decoy program, see our prior post here. The Shoulder Tap program is a newer program where an underage individual working with the police asks adults near alcohol retailers to purchase alcohol for the individual. The grants for this cycle of programming range from $2,500 to $10,000. While employee training is always important, given the likelihood of increased enforcement beginning in February 2011, now is a good time to review, revise, and update policies and make sure employees understand the consequences of selling to minors.

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


New Year’s Prediction: Geo Location and Alcohol Advertising

December 08, 2010

We’ve posted about alcohol and social media before, but are revisiting the issue to discuss geo location and location-based advertising.

Websites and mobile apps like Foursquare, Shop Kick, and Facebook Places allow advertisers to identify the location of their audience members and then send an offer based on the consumer’s location. The marketing potential for alcoholic beverage suppliers and retailers is epic. Presume a social media savvy consumer, Joe, who checks in everywhere he goes and provides personal information across a variety of web platforms. Joe likes craft beer, and he likes to drink it in San Francisco’s Haight district. These geography-based applications will allow the brewers, bars and restaurants that Joe interacts with online and via the geo apps to know when Joe is in the Haight and send him a coupon for a discounted pint of craft beer, expiring in only a few hours. The opportunities for a personalized call to action are profound.

Though the technology is very cool, there are plentiful legal pitfalls. Leaving aside regulatory acronyms all mobile advertisers should heed (e.g. MMA, FCC, FTC, TCPA, CTIA), there are alcoholic beverage law issues with geo targeting. The rules on alcohol discounts vary by state and by the party selling the alcohol. How will these programs ensure that the underlying offers are legally compliant? How will the geo location sites identify users who are underage or have a chronic drinking problem? What about states where solicitation requires a license, or is prohibited? We expect to see alcohol advertising tiptoe into geo location in 2011, and expect to see regulators follow quickly.

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 ·


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 ·


New York State Seals the Fate of Four Loko Alcoholic Energy Drinks

November 17, 2010

New York is the latest state to jump on the alcoholic energy drinks ban-wagon. On Sunday, November 14, 2010, New York Governor David Paterson and Chairman of the State Liquor Authority Dennis Rosen announced a voluntary agreement with Phusion Products, the makers of Four Loko, to stop shipment of caffeinated alcoholic beverages to New York by Friday, November 19, 2010. Additionally, the largest beer distributors in New York State agreed to stop selling malt beverages containing caffeine and other stimulants. Those distributors have until December 10, 2010 to sell off the remainder of their in-state inventory. The voluntary agreement effectively bans the products from New York State. In addition, Phusion Products agreed to fund educational alcohol awareness programs concerning binge drinking. The agreement comes after NYPD sting operations revealed sales of Four Loko products to minors by numerous stores in the Bronx area.

On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, New York Senator Charles Schumer went further, indicating that the Food and Drug Administration was expected to release findings that caffeine is an unsafe food additive for alcoholic drinks. Were such findings made, the Federal Trade Commission would send letters to manufacturers of such beverages warning that marketing such products could be illegal. The FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey did not confirm whether or not such findings were expected or when any findings on the matter would be released.

Precluding the need for any such findings, however, Phusion Products announced that same day, via their website, that it would remove caffeine, guarana and taurine from Four Loko. Phusion Products maintains that their products as originally formulated were safe; however, the company felt changes were necessary due to the current regulatory environment. Phusion Products isn’t the first company to remove ingredients from an alcoholic energy drink in response to regulatory pressure. In 2008, MillerCoors announced it would remove caffeine, guarana, ginseng, and taurine from its Sparks beverages after voluntary negotiations with various state attorney generals. Anheuser-Busch InBev underwent a similar reformulation process with its Tilt beverages in 2008.

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


Alcoholic Energy Drinks Banned in Michigan and Washington

November 12, 2010

In the span of a week, both Michigan and Washington have banned alcoholic energy drinks. On November 4, 2010, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission issued an Administrative Order rescinding its approval of all alcoholic energy drinks, effectively banning them in the state of Michigan. Manufacturers have 30 days from the date of the Order to remove their products from Michigan stores. The ban covers a total of 55 drinks offered by nine different suppliers. According to supporters of the ban, the high alcohol content—around 12% for a 24-ounce can, compared to 4-5% for a 12-ounce beer—combined with flashy packaging, flavors such as grape and watermelon, low prices (around $2 to $5), and the combination of stimulants such as caffeine, taurine, and guarana, along with alcohol, make the drinks dangerous to teenagers and college-aged students. As the Commission’s news release stated, “The Commission believes the packaging is often misleading, and the products themselves can pose problems by directly appealing to a younger customer, encouraging excessive consumption, while mixing alcohol with various other chemical and herbal stimulants.”

On November 10, 2010, at the request of Governor Chris Gregoire, the Washington State Liquor Control Board approved an emergency rule banning the sale of alcoholic energy drinks. The emergency ban will remain in effect for 120 days, during which time the Liquor Control Board will work to make the ban permanent. The Washington ban was partially spurred by nine Central Washington University students who became ill after consuming alcoholic energy drinks. As Gov. Gregoire stated in the Liquor Control Board’s press release, “By taking these drinks off the shelves we are saying ‘no’ to irresponsible drinking and taking steps to prevent incidents like the one that made these college students so ill.”

Michigan and Washington are not the only states with some form of limitation on alcoholic energy drinks. Both Utah and Montana reclassified such beverages as liquor, thus restricting the locations where such items can be sold. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would look into the health risks associated with caffeinated alcoholic beverages. The FDA has never approved caffeine as an additive to alcoholic beverages, although it has approved it as an additive to soft drinks. Beverages without FDA approval can still be lawfully marketed, but their use must be subject to a prior sanction or deemed Generally Recognized As Safe, or GRAS. Given the extensive media coverage surrounding beverages containing caffeine and alcohol, it appears likely that these products will continue to attract regulatory attention.

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


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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