Restaurant Law Blog

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

State Liquor Authority Battles Albany Wine Retailer Over Out-of-State Shipping Restrictions

Can the State Liquor Authority regulate the retail sale of wine?

The State Liquor Authority (SLA) is the agency responsible for issuing liquor licenses, regulating alcohol sales, and doling out punishments to bars and restaurants caught violating the various regulations surrounding the industry. However, many are beginning to consider whether the SLA has actually gone too far within the context of retail wine and beer sales – particularly with regard to the out-of-state shipment of orders from local wineries and microbrews.

In one ongoing battle, upstate New York’s Empire Wines has sought an answer to this very question, and is engaging in ongoing litigation to help clarify the breadth of powers the SLA may use against New York-based companies engaged in the out-of-state sale of wine, beer and liquor. So far, the SLA has imposed several citations against Empire Wines, based primarily on the premise that the states to which it is shipping alcohol have their own prohibitions against the interstate shipment of alcohol. In other words, Empire Wines is exporting wines to states from which wine export is prohibited.

In its defense, Empire Wines has pointed out the blatant fact that it is not breaking any laws in the state of New York by shipping wines to places that do not allow their own businesses to engage in similar practices. In essence, Empire Wines asserts that the SLA’s charge of “improper conduct” is, in and of itself, an improper exercise of power by the agency and should be stopped through legislation.

Earlier this year, a bill that would put a stop to the SLA’s enforcement powers over perceived violations of laws in other states – especially when no other state has made a finding of guilt against a New York-based retailer-- passed both houses of the New York State legislature with broad support.

This bill is awaiting Governor Cuomo's signature. The governor has publicly voiced his support of New York’s growing winery and microbrew industry.

If you are facing a difficulties regarding SLA regulations and would like to discuss your options with an experienced liquor license attorney, please contact DiPasquale Law Group, serving the greater New York City metropolitan area, at 646.383.4607.

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