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Illinois Wine Consumers Organize

When the constitutional amendment that enacted Prohibition was repealed, there was no single federal law put in place to regulate the production, distribution, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. In fact, each state was left to create its own laws to cover these issues. The result has been a hodgepodge of regulations that differ substantially from one state to the next.

Some states have dry laws that prohibit sales of alcohol on certain days, after certain hours, etc. Some require that certain alcoholic beverages be sold only in state run stores. In New York, liquor stores are prohibited from selling anything that they are not specifically allowed to sell. Since what they are allowed to sell is essentially limited to beverages, devices for opening or drinking beverages, and educational materials a store owner out there was recently charged with a violation because he sold a bag for carrying wine bottles. These chaotic regulations make it very difficult for stores and producers to avoid running afoul of the law. And in the end, the mess hurts consumers by bringing about higher prices and diminished selection.

Few laws do more to limit consumer choice than those which prevent direct shipment of wine to consumers in a given state from out-of-state retailers or producers. Some of these laws even prohibit retailers from buying wine directly from out of state producers or distributors. For fifteen years, Illinois was one of the relatively enlightened states. Its citizens could receive wine directly from providers in any other state itself allowing the importation of wine from Illinois.

 

However, a new law has now gone into effect as a result of Illinois House Bill 429. While this law still allows Illinois consumers to receive wine directly from out of state wineries, consumers are now prohibited from receiving wine from out of state retailers.

A new consumer advocacy group claims that the HB 429 is both unnecessary and the result of considerable financial contributions from Illinois beverage distributors to the local politicians. Not that there is any history in Illinois of politicians selling their influence...

The beneficiaries of the new law are the Illinois distributors and resellers. Since wineries typically sell wine at full retail and there are shipping charges added that often eat up much of any “club member discount” that may exist, the local outfits now face virtually no price competition. And since many wineries can’t or don’t ship direct at all or have extensive stock of back vintages, consumers in Illinois will now be limited to a much narrower range of wines. This is particularly true for people who enjoy foreign wines which clearly cannot be shipped direct to consumers in the U.S.

The losers are the consumers, out-of-state resellers and even wineries. The consumers will now pay higher prices and have fewer wines from which to choose. The out-of-state and online resellers are now prohibited access to one of the most populous states in the country. And the distributors will now use their additional leverage to demand lower prices from wineries that want access to store shelves in the market, but those distributors are very unlikely to pass those savings on to consumers.

If you are concerned about this new law, just wish to learn more about the situation or want to participate in trying to give Illinois consumers a greater voice through the Illinois Wine Consumer Coalition, click here to go to the group’s website. Please note that NorCal Wine has no direct stake in this as we are not based in Illinois, are not resellers of wine and have no affiliations with companies that are. However we do believe that, in the absence of compelling reasons otherwise, consumers should have the right to buy wine from whomever they choose.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2009 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.