With a new law allowing out-of-state wineries to sell directly to Oregon retailers, effective January 1, Oregon looked like a bright star in the winery self-distribution field. Oregon had chosen to level up, allowing both domestic and out-of-state wineries to sell direct to retailers. It seemed as if free trade in wine had arrived.
But, in a preemptive strike just before the New Year, the Oregon wholesalers decided that the new law was the perfect vehicle to attack central warehousing by Oregon chain retailers.
In an e-mail circulated in late December, the wholesalers told chain retailers operating in Oregon that “the central warehousing of wine by a retailer” was no longer allowed and that a “retail license does not allow the retailer to transport wine or beer from one licensed location to another, even if the two locations are owned by the same entity.”
Retailers, who had for years used Oregon wholesalers to import wine and then have it delivered to the retailer’s central warehouse for the retailer to transport it to their retail locations, found themselves scrambling when wholesalers refused to deliver wine to their warehouses, even before the new law took effect. This was not wine purchased in a direct sale between the out-of-state winery and the retailer, but wines imported by, and purchased from, the Oregon wholesaler, as had been done for years.
The regular readers of the ShipCompliant blog may recall that the issue of central warehousing by Oregon retailers was discussed extensively in a prior blog post titled “An Exchange on Central Warehousing”. While Oregon had no statute prohibiting the practice, the OLCC had enunciated the position that central warehousing was not consistent with its regulations. However, the blog post carefully analyzed the Commission’s position and found it unsupported by law or logic.
For retailers in Oregon, the OLCC’s position was strange because many of the chain retailers had been receiving wine into their central warehouses and delivering to their own stores for YEARS. Some of them had letters from the Commission specifically approving the practice. The Commission took no steps to revoke these prior letters and let the practice continue.
So the wholesalers took it upon themselves to see if they could end retailers’ practice of central warehousing. While not articulated directly, the wholesalers are apparently relying on the provisions of the new wine self-distribution law to claim the practice is now outlawed. First, the new law does require that wine purchased direct from a winery must be received at a premise with a license endorsed to receive direct sales. [Section 2.(5) of HB 2677.]
But does that mean that the wine, during transit, must always stop at a licensed location? Could the wine be stored and transported from an unlicensed location, such as a central warehouse, before coming to the premises with the license with the proper endorsement?
Second, the new law in Section 2b contains provisions relating to who may ship wine under this new permit. Apparently the wholesalers believe that since retailers are not mentioned as one of the licensees who may transport direct sales wine in this section, retailers may no longer transport or ship wine at ANY TIME, even between their own stores, a practice that had been allowed for years. Again, it is not clear that the new law dealing specifically with direct sales by wineries to retailers was designed to limit retailers’ rights to transport or ship their own inventories of wine. Apparently the struggle to define who can ship wine, and under what circumstances is now open for debate.
The OLCC has just convened a rule advisory committee this week to help draft the final regulations to implement the both Wine Direct Shipper and Wine Self-Distribution permits, with formal rulemaking to follow this spring. We can expect round two to be exciting as the wholesalers decided to open it with a quick punch before the bell.
On January 1, 2008 the legislation replacing Oregon’s reciprocity law with a permit system for the sale and shipment of wine directly from wineries will become effective. The new law requires wineries have a Direct Shipper Permit, pay an annual license fee of $50 and maintain a bond of at least $1000. Wineries with approved Direct Shipper Permits may ship up to two nine liter cases per month directly to an Oregon resident who is at least 21 years of age, must pay excise taxes and file monthly reports with the Privilege Tax Department. Wineries will be mailed monthly report forms within in 30 days of being issued a permit. The permit application and instructions on how to apply for a bond are currently available on the Wine Institute website.
Wineries may also apply for an Oregon Self-Distribution Permit at this time. Beginning January 1, 2008 Self-Distribution permit holders may ship directly to retailers in OR. In order to obtain the permit applicants must have an Oregon Certificate of Approval, pay a $100 fee and maintain a bond of at least $1000. There are additional reporting and tax requirements. More information about the Self-Distribution application process can be found on the OR Liquor Commission’s website.
Wineries applying for a Direct Shipper Permit and Self-Distribution Permit should keep the application processes separate. For example, an applicant will need to obtain one bond for the Direct Shipper permit and a second bond for the Self-Distribution permit. Should you have any questions please contact Annie Bones in Wine Institute’s State Relations Department at email@example.com.
Annie Bones, Wine Institute
Wine Spectator Online has a good article that compares the different paths that Indiana and Oregon took in arriving at their new rules. It’s definitely worth a read. Here are some excerpts:
Advocates of direct-to-consumer wine shipments recently scored two points in the win column: Oregon and Indiana. Both states now have more open direct-shipping laws, though they came about in starkly different ways and, unfortunately for Indiana wine lovers, probably face different levels of success in the long term. But for now, consumers in both states can legally receive wine shipments directly from in- and out-of-state wineries.
Because the judge focused on those two particular elements of Indiana’s law, the state’s existing direct-shipping rules remain intact. So long as the wineries are willing to ship and the courier services such as FedEx and UPS are willing to deliver, direct wine shipments to Indiana residents can commence. Unfortunately, however, Indiana consumers can’t count their chickens just yet. Since the law is written to limit individual households to 24 cases per year rather than the wineries themselves, the wineries have no way of knowing if they’ll be sending, say, the 25th case to a particular Indiana resident, and therefore violating the law. It’s a risk some wineries are willing to take-but not all of them.
Click here to read the full article.
After January 1st, there may be only two reciprocal states left. Oregon HB 2171 was signed by the governor on July 31st and is now enrolled. As mentioned in a previous post, Oregon is all set up to become a limited/direct permit state for direct to consumer shipping. Previously a reciprocal state, only wineries from other reciprocal states could ship wines to their Oregonian clients’ doors. Now wineries and retailers alike will be able to do so with, of course, some of the usual restrictions; a $50 direct shipping permit is required, all taxes are to be paid by the winery or retailer, and each holder of the direct shipper’s license may ship up to two cases per month per individual. These easy-going restrictions are pretty refreshing after the morass that some states are creating for those of us that just want to buy some wine.
Oregon was one of the few remaining states with reciprocal direct-shipping language. If Illinois HB 429 is signed by the governor, this will mean that there will only be three remaining states left with the “reciprocal” status. Sooner or later, Iowa, New Mexico, and Wisconsin also will become compliant with the Granholm ruling. Legislation is currently under construction in Wisconsin and is threatening to hinder consumer choice, so let’s cross our fingers and hope that all the remaining reciprocal states decide to follow in Oregon’s footsteps.
From Jeremy Benson at Free the Grapes! :
Free the Grapes! Media Update
Now that we’re at the end of most state legislative sessions, we thought it timely to provide an update on direct-to-consumer (DTC) wine direct shipping as of month-end July 2007. Here are some highlights, followed by a more detailed description.
o DTC legislation was considered in 23 states;
o Two states transitioned from reciprocal to a DTC permit system (MO, WV) with additional states pending (OR, IL).
o The legal direct shipping states for wineries represent 78% of wine consumption in the U.S., although retailers can reach far fewer states.
- Florida: the third largest state for wine enjoyment, remains a legal state for winery shipments after a fierce defense of the court order that allowed shipping;
- Hawaii: a concerted effort to reduce quantity limits failed;
- Missouri: transitioned from reciprocal to permit status (no fee);
- North Dakota: increased shipping quantity limits;
- Virginia: now allows Internet retailers without a physical presence to direct ship;
- West Virginia: replaced reciprocal status with permit bill.
- Arkansas: DTC permit bill failed in committee;
- New Mexico: reciprocal transition bill failed due largely to opposition by wholesalers and the beer lobby;
- Georgia: effort to replace cumbersome law with permit bill failed;
- Texas: passed a law limiting DTC shipping from in-state retailers outside their particular county;
- Ohio: passed potentially unworkable permit system for DTC shipments, including capacity cap of 150,000 gallons;
- Legal rulings supported the on-site sale requirement in ME, and opposed a challenge to TN’s shipping prohibition.
Wine Institute provided significant input to the following summary of state activity this year.
States with Legislation Under Consideration
Wisconsin – For 20 years, Wisconsin has been a reciprocal state, allowing its consumers to purchase wine directly from wineries as well as in-state wine retailers. But consumers will lose these privileges if the Budget Bill passes as it is currently written. Anti-consumer provisions were slipped into the Senate version of the 384-page, $66 billion, two-year Budget Bill in mid-July. The conference committee will now reconcile differences in the Senate and Assembly versions of the budget bill.
Illinois – House Bill 429 passed both House and Senate and is before the governor for signature. It creates a winery-only DTC shipping permit that replaces the existing reciprocity law. The Specialty Wine Retailers Association was unsuccessful in securing an amendment continuing shipments from out-of-state retailers, although in-state retailers were successful at maintaining their in-state shipping privilege.
Alaska –House Bill 34 (Ledoux) would specifically allow in-state wineries to make DTC shipments to AK consumers, with a 5-gallon per shipment limit. Status: passed House and Senate, and was signed by the Governor on 5/31/07.
Arkansas – Senate Bill 592 (Whitaker), a positive bill that would have created a DTC shippers permit for wineries, died in House Rules Committee March 30.
Connecticut — Senate Bill 1204 was passed into law and changes the time period specified in the DTC shipping statute from 60 days to 2 months for the 5 gallon limit.
Florida – Shipping into FL is continues to be legal after competing bills—with and without discriminatory capacity caps—were considered but ultimately died in committees.
Georgia – House Bill 159 (Willard) and its companion Senate Bill 56 (Untermann) would have replaced the state’s convoluted shipping law with a DTC shipping license for all wineries (and retailers in SB56). The bills died in committee. Wholesaler-supported House Bill 393 (Stephens) sought to create new “domestic farm winery” and national “farm winery” categories with discriminatory capacity caps. The bill died in committee.
Hawaii – House Bill 1093 (Say) and Senate Bill 1019 (Taniguchi) sought to reduce consumer choice by limiting shipments under the existing DTC shipping permit from six cases per winery per consumer per year, to six cases per household per year. Both bills died in committee.
Idaho – House Bill 11 would have modified the permit legislation passed in 2006 to allow wholesalers and retailers in Idaho and other states to ship wine directly to consumers. Bill died in committee.
Maine – Senate Bill 54 (Bromley) would have created a DTC shippers permit for wine & beer. The bill passed the Senate on 6/12/07, but was killed in the house later that week.
Missouri — The Governor of Missouri signed SB 299 transitioning Missouri from a reciprocal state to a permit state effective August 28, 2007. The new permit law requires all wineries to obtain a direct shipping permit (no fee), limit shipments to two cases per consumer per month, submit an annual report by January 31, and pay excise taxes. The direct shipping permit application and instructions are available on the Wine Institute website at www.wineinstitute.org/programs/shipwine.
Nebraska – L441 (Mcdonald) will allocate funds raised by the existing $500 DTC shipper license fee paid by all wineries to be deposited to the NE Winery and Grape Producers Promotional Fund. The bill was signed by the Governor on May 30, 2007.
New Mexico – House Bill 1018 (Silva) passed the House, but was killed in the Senate after intense pressure from wholesalers and the beer lobby. It would have replaced reciprocity with a DTC shipping permit for wineries and retailers.
North Dakota – Senate Bill 2135 was signed into law and makes favorable changes to existing DTC shipping provisions, including: increased quantity limit from one to three cases per month, removed “reciprocal” provision passed in 2005 but never implemented, and removed vague language.
Ohio – During closing stages of budget process an amendment was adopted that will create a potentially unworkable permit system for DTC shipments into Ohio. The law has a capacity cap of 150,000 gallons, along with “per family household” aggregate limit that may prevent wineries from being able to ship even if they qualify for the permit. The bill was signed by the Governor on June 30 and becomes effective October 1, 2007.
Oklahoma – Several bills in the House and Senate were introduced, including a voter referendum to allow OK consumers to receive DTC shipments from out-of-state wineries, but a permit system has not been outlined. All bills died in committee.
Oregon – House Bill 2171 (Minnis) would transition state from a reciprocal DTC to a permit system for wineries and retailers. Status: The bill passed the House & Senate, and was sent to the Governor for signature in June.
Pennsylvania – House Bill 255 (Godshall) and Senate Bill 293 (Ferlo) are positive DTC shipping permit bills with a $100 registration fee, two cases per month to any individual. Taxes collected. Status: Both bills remain in Committee.
Tennessee – House Bill 1850 (Todd) creates a DTC shipping permit for 2 cases annually. Provisions: $100 fee, annual reports, annual excise and sales tax payments (companion bill was SB 1977, Stanley). Both bills died in Committee.
Texas – Senate Bill 1229 (Gallegos) was signed by the governor May 5, and limits the ability of TX retailers to use common carriers for DTC delivery outside their particular county. The bill was aimed at pending litigation spearheaded by the Specialty Wine Retailers Association seeking statewide sales via common carrier.
Virginia – House Bill 1784 (Cosgrove) and Senate Bill 1289 (Watkins) augmented current direct shipper permit to clarify that those shipments are by common carrier only, and created separate allowance for any legal shipper to make deliveries of up to 4 cases of wine to a consumer in their own vehicle. Additionally, Senate Bill 984 (Edwards) also became law, creating an “internet wine retailer license” to allow sales by a retailer having no physical premise.
West Virginia – Senate Bill 712 (Kessler) was signed by the governor and, among many other provisions, replaced reciprocity with a DTC permit bill for wineries, wholesalers and retailers.
Maine – As previously reported elsewhere, on March 5, U.S. District Court Judge Carter adopted the magistrate’s report and recommendation issued three months ago in the Cherry Hill (Tanford/Epstein) suit. This ruling supports an on-site sale requirement for any sales to consumers, contrary to an opinion rendered in December 2006 in KY ruling that on-site provisions were unconstitutional.
Tennessee – As previously reported elsewhere, the U.S. District Court in Tennessee ruled in favor of the state regarding what most thought was an ill-advised lawsuit (Jelovsek v. Bresden). The plaintiffs alleged that consumers faced a greater burden in traveling to another state to purchase wine in person at a winery than they faced in buying wine directly from a TN winery tasting room. The judge was not convinced, and the wholesalers have promoted their “victory” to bolster arguments for the preeminence of the 3-tier system in all matters.
Texas – All summary judgment motions have been filed. Oral arguments are scheduled for September 21 in Dallas. Wholesalers claim that passage of Senate Bill 1229 moots this lawsuit (see Texas paragraph under legislation, above).
Massachusetts — Motions for summary judgment are expected this winter in the case that seeks to overturn the 30,000 gallon production cap in the DTC law. Family Winemakers of California is the lead plaintiff.