Alcohol Regulation Roundup: July 19, 2011

California: In an attempt to lower the rates of minors drinking alcohol, a bill is being pushed that would prevent grocery store patrons from purchasing alcohol in the automated checkout lines. AB 183 is being called “a solution in search of a problem” according to those looking at the numbers of minors actually purchasing alcohol. The majority of times a minor gets his or her hands on alcohol, they got it by convincing an adult to purchase the booze for them.

Georgia: Georgia is now up to nine cities that will be voting whether or not to end the ban on Sunday sales in the next election

Iowa: Some rural residents of the Hawkeye State finally have their first local liquor stores in gas stations. New laws that went into effect this month allow convenience stores and gas stations to sell spirits as well.

Minnesota: Now in its third week of shutdown, the Minnesota government budget impasse is beginning to affect businesses in the state, including breweries and pubs. For stores, restaurants, and bars, the shutdown has prevented many from purchasing supplies of alcohol, of which they are quickly running out. State law requires liquor purchasing cards, which cost a measly $20 to renew, in order for businesses to buy alcohol. The shutdown prevents these businesses from being able to renew those cards and for the 300 or so liquor-serving establishments that couldn’t get their now-expired purchasing cards renewed, the delay could spell doom.

In addition, the state shutdown is preventing the opening of Steel Toe Brewing, which was set to brew its first batch of beer on July 1, but couldn’t get anyone from the Department of Labor and Industry to approve the boiler for use.

New Jersey: State lawmakers may leave NJ’s wine industry, the 7th largest market in the U.S., in tatters due to inaction. Last December, a court ruled that the state’s wine laws discriminated against out-of-state producers by allowing them to receive a license that allowed them to essentially operate outside of the three-tier system. The courts indicated that the laws would have to be made constitutional or they would start shutting down winery tasting rooms — where wineries derive a significant portion of their revenues. The deadline was July 1, but lawmakers have yet to agree on a bill. In June, a proposal passed in the State Senate, which would have allowed direct-to-consumer shipping and out-of-state wineries to open retail outfits, but it didn’t get a vote in the Assembly. For wineries in the Garden State, they are running out of time. While no tasting rooms have been shut down yet, the liquor control board has stopped issuing new winery licenses.

Pennsylvania: As I wrote about yesterday, Republican Senator Mike Turzai is once again making the push for privatizing the state-owned liquor wholesaling and retailing monopoly.

Virginia: Jack Daniel’s Whiskey breaks the seal on new laws that took effect this month overturning the ban on outdoor advertising of alcohol.

Washington State: Last year’s initiative to privatize the wholesalers of alcohol in the state failed at the polls by a slim margin, but Costco is once again backing a bill that would force the state to sell its stores and distribution center. However, I-1183 is different from previous efforts. First, to counter fears of lost state-revenue, the initiative instates a 17 percent fee on retail liquor sales and limits the number of stores that may sell liquor. This time around, only outlets with at least 10,000 square feet may apply for licenses to sell liquor, which means most convenience stores like 7-11 would be left in the cold.