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Tag Archives: liquor laws

Winebits 340: When you think three-tier can’t get any more foolish, it does

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three-tier system

How does anyone make sense of these three-tier decisions without a crate of aspirin?

The Wine Curmudgeon always underestimates the silliness of the three-tier system — which governs alcohol sales in the U.S. — even though I have been writing about it for 20 years:

Only in Texas: What happens if you open a chain of liquor stores in the Lone Star State and run it successfully? You get sued — by other retailers who claim you’re violating state law. Like most three-tier stories, it’s terribly confusing, but the gist is this: Texas law says only state residents (for at least a year) can get a retail license to sell booze, but the law hasn’t been enforced in more than two decades. Total Wine, a Maryland chain that has opened six stores in the state, is being sued by the trade group that represents Texas liquor stores because Total isn’t a state resident. The trade group says that a recent Missouri case validated the residency requirement that Texas hasn’t enforced, and wants Total’s license revoked. Yes, I know, it makes my head hurt, too.

Cold beer? How dare you? A federal judge had told Indiana convenience stores and supermarkets that they can sell warm beer and cold wine, but not cold beer, reports Supermarket News — even though liquor stores can sell cold beer. His logic? That the state would have a more difficult time preventing beer sales to minors if c-stores and supermarkets sold cold beer. Apparently, minors don’t try to buy cold wine or warm beer at gas stations by asking their friend who works there to ring it up as motor oil. Still, before we start making too much fun of the judge, know this: His logic makes perfect sense given the legal underpinnings of the three-tier system, which allows each state to regulate liquor sales as it sees fit. If Indiana law says everything possible must be done to prevent underage drinking, and the state insists that grocery store cold beer sales will make this difficult, then the judge didn’t have much choice.

Beer at Oktoberfest? Not in Utah: The Wine Curmudgeon has a soft spot in his heart for Utah’s liquor laws, because they have managed to retain their 19th-century Victorian charm in the 21st century. The latest? That the state’s liquor cops require an event be for “the common good” before they will grant a permit to sell alcohol for something like a festival or concert. And, since the Snowbird Ski Resort near Salt Lake City couldn’t demonstrate that its annual Oktoberfest was for the common good, it didn’t get a license to sell beer or wine. That the idea of “common good” — whatever that is — is not part of state law, but from rules written by the liquor cops, only makes this decision that much more charming.

Winebits 331: Powdered alcohol, last call, and best quote ever

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Winebits 331: Powdered alcohol, last call, and best quote ever

“Wonder what Palcohol will do to this crappy wine?”

When real booze isn’t enough: Not happy with liquid alcohol? Then how about the powdered version, Palcohol, which has been approved for consumer use. It comes in seven flavors, including “cosmopolitan,” “lemondrop,” and “powderita.” Yum yum. No word yet on whether the company will release a pink moscato flavor, with appropriate Millennial marketing: “Dude, your wine is super lame — try this.” The Wine Curmudgeon’s cynicism notwithstanding, I checked with the blog’s offical liquor lawyer, who sighed (he does that a lot when I talk to him). His analysis: “I’ll bet it lasts about 10 minutes. A few years ago all the regulators got panicky over vaporized alcohol. Supposedly made you drunk in .05 seconds and they couldn’t figure out how to make it illegal. Turns out it didn’t work and nobody gave a damn. Maybe this will be the same way, but stand by for screams of alarm.”

When regular closing time isn’t enough: How does 5:30 in the morning sound? That’s the plan for bars in several Montreal neighborhoods this summer, part of a scheme to ease congestion in those area when the bars close. The Wine Curmudgeon, despite more than a passing knowledge of drinking in Montreal (and where I have had some great Canadian wine), is still confused. Can there be a city where so many people are drinking so late into the night that last call resembles a shopping mall parking lot on Black Friday? If so, I need to get out more often. Or at least drink somewhere besides Dallas.

If not the best quote ever, close to it: Hardy Wallace gained fame — and quite a bit of notoriety — when he won a gig several years ago as the official blogger for the Murphy-Goode wine brand. Wallace makes wine now, and notoriety still follows him. Consider this, from an interview with a San Francisco-area business newspaper: “It’s overwhelming generality that vintners are doing a horrible job communicating with consumers. … You do not stand in a room and scream, ‘Buy this!’ and, ‘We sell this!’ ” Sounds like the Wine Curmudgeon on a rant, no?

Winebits 295: Liquor stores, riesling, Canada

Prepare for a rant: Marketwatch, which usually does a decent job of covering the business world, decided to do one of those “Let’s write a story because it sounds good even though it isn’t much true” pieces – “Could liquor stores go the way of bookstores?” The difference, regardless of anything else, is that wine sales are regulated and books sales aren’t, something that isn’t mentioned until the fourth from the final paragraph of the story. There’s also the cost of shipping, which isn’t mentioned at all. Sometimes, I wonder what assignment editors are thinking of when they do these stories. This piece is so bad that it immediately becomes a finalist for a Curmudgie.

Getting a handle on riesling: Mike Veseth at the Wine Economist has a nice look at the dilemma facing riesling, which is sweet but not popular, made in weird places, and known pretty much only to Germans and wine geeks. He did a panel where they tasted great riesling from Idaho. Ah, go Drink Local.

Love those Canadian liquor laws: Canada, which did not have Prohibition but still ended up with a highly regulated retail liquor system, always offers a good example that makes us feel better about three-tier. Witness this, from a study that says the Ontario provincial store system drives up beer prices by as much as C$9.50 a case. To make the results even more ironic, the study was paid for by a convenience store trade group that wants to sell beer. And we know how cheap beer is at convenience stores, don’t we?

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