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Kentucky On-Site Requirement Invalidated, but Questions Remain

On December 24th, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, in the Cherry Hill case, the judgment of the district court, invalidating the on-site purchase requirement.

The district court ruled, pursuant to the Supreme Court’s decision in Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460 (2005), that the in-person purchase requirement in portions of Kentucky’s statutory scheme discriminated against interstate commerce by limiting the ability of out-of-state small farm wineries to sell and ship wine to Kentucky consumers.

Although this decision sets an important precedent, especially in light of a contradictory decision in Indiana, several questions remain unresolved. Despite the justifiably positive news in the press, direct shipping to Kentucky seems unlikely in the near term.

The biggest obstacle is the fact that the common carriers (FedEx and UPS) have not approved the state of Kentucky for direct shipping. Among other reasons for not yet opening up the Bluegrass State, the carriers are not thrilled about dealing with the 53 Dry and 16 Moist counties.

Furthermore, in spite of the recent victory in Massachusetts where the 30,000 gallon capacity cap was declared unconstitutional, the Cherry Hill challenge of the 50,000 gallon capacity cap in Kentucky was not successful. So, even if the carriers approved Kentucky for shipping, only “small farm” wineries would be eligible for a permit.

Corbin Houchins provided great analysis of the original district court ruling two years ago, and I recommend revisiting that post for more information on Cherry Hill. He highlighted an additional question about the two case “per visit” limit, and how that would apply given the unconstitutionality of the on-site visit requirement.

Cherry Hill Decision

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