Bay State Buffoons – Take Action!

Posted by | Posted in Wine Politics | Posted on 02-07-2014

It sucks to be a wine consumer in Massachusetts.

The state bans winery- and retailer-to consumer shipping. It prohibits supermarket wine sales. Corkage hardly exists – restaurants are only allowed to offer BYO if they don’t have a liquor license.

AWCCIt’s no wonder why Massachusetts ranked 43rd – and received an “F” – in the American Wine Consumer Coalition’s 2013 report grading states on the consumer friendliness of local wine laws.

Eighty years after the end of Prohibition, Bay State consumers still live under archaic laws that disregard their interests and enrich special-interest groups.

Yesterday in Wine Industry Insight, Lewis Perdue brought attention to a shocking story which shows the stunning influence of Bay State liquor wholesalers.

The Boston Wine Expo takes place next weekend. It’s a huge event — about 20,000 people are expected to attend. The Expo rented booths to Xfinity, the Aruba Tourism Authority, Ameriprise, and a host of companies selling wine and wine-related products.

But they’ve barred the American Wine Consumer Coalition from attending.

The reason? The AWCC would tell consumers about HR 249, a bill that’ll make it easier to access wine via direct shipment. If it passes, it’ll impact wholesalers’ profits. So expo director James Carmody and his allies are trying to keep consumers in the dark.

This is insane. Please spread this story far and wide and urge your friends in Massachusetts to get involved. They can write the media, write their representatives, and raise a ruckus.

HR 249, introduced by Rep.Theodore Speliotis, would finally allow consumers to have wine shipped to their home from out of state wineries. But as written, it would keep the prohibition on shipments from out-of-state retailers. To express your support – and urge him to amend the bill to also allow consumers to purchase wines from out-of-state retailers — send him an email at Theodore.Speliotis@mahouse.gov.

Again, please spread the word!

Comments (10)

  1. You are so entirely right about MA. I relocated here full-time from Brooklyn 3 years ago, & while the Bay State is tops in virtually every quality-of-life metric (health care coverage, education, etc., etc.), the liquor laws are wholly owned by the distributors. Sadly, the proportion of the public who really cares about this issue is minuscule. I’ve written to lawmakers before, & I’ll do so now, but the sad truth is that it’s a classic case of laws written by those the laws were initially intended to regulate (think the Volker Rule, the rescinding of Glass-Steagall, etc.). For the foreseeable future, I’ll just have my wine sent from the many excellent wineries I visit (& subscribe to) to relatives all over the Northeast. Huge drag, but what else can I do?

    Thanks for drawing some attention to the deplorable state of affairs here…

  2. First, MA does not prohibit supermarket wine sales. They do limit the number of licenses a single entity can possess, though that number is growing over time due to a new law.

    Second, I am curious why Free The Grapes has been previously allowed at the Expo as they have been there promoting DTC wine sales. I don’t know if they will be there this year, or if they have now been probhibited too.

  3. Richard,

    With regards to supermarket wine sales, the state severely restricts the number of licenses chains may obtain. So you’ll see wine in some grocery stores, but it’s very rare at the bigger ones.

    The law you mention will barely improve things. Until 2011, companies that own multiple stores were limited to three licenses. In 2012, that number increased to five. In 2016, it’ll increase to seven. And in 2020, for the final time, it’ll increase to nine.

    So while you’re technically (sort of) correct, the point remains the same: It sucks to be a wine consumer in Massachusetts.

  4. There is also a way some of the large chains get around the restriction. The chains like BJs Whokesale & Costco sometimes rent out space to a wine store so technically the chain does not possess the license. That allows such a chain to have wine in many of their stores, beyond the usual limit.

  5. Free the Grapes, a great organization, did exhibit last year. But not this year! It also happens that a direct shipping bill is moving through the MA legislature this year.

  6. As someone who cut his early journalistic teeth as a consumer reporter for the Ithaca (NY) Journal back in the early 1970s, I don’t agree with the ultimate consumer effects of DTC bans. However, as a reporter, I do appreciate the fact that Mr. Carmody returned my call promptly and was upfront and transparent in his comments … not evasive or non-communicative. I respect him for that.

  7. Sorry, this is just dead wrong. If the Boston Wine Expo is banning DTC exhibitors, why would they promote an iPhone app on their home page to “buy [wine] in seconds for doorstep delivery”?

  8. @Wine Person – If you would take a moment and click the link provided to Perdue’s article, you would see that the expo director has said that “DTC operations are not welcome now, nor are they likely to be in the future…” I’m not sure if you could have greater evidence that BWE is banning DTC exhibitors.

  9. MA is pretty bad, but the Oscar for “Worst State’s Wine Laws” goes to Utah. No one can ship wine to residents, not even local wineries. Only state-owned stores can sell alcohol except for 3.2 beer. BYOB (corkage) is permitted only to licensed establishments and the wine must be purchased in Utah. People cannot legally bring in any alcohol from another state, even a single bottle for their own use. Restaurants cannot pour a glass of wine or make a drink in front of patrons. Flights of wine are not allowed (no more than 5 oz of wine at any time can be in front of a customer, except bottles are allowed). I can go on, but the bandwidth consumed would break the internet.

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