An Update on State Alcohol Regulations

Here is another installment in the roundup of news regarding the weird and wacky state of alcohol regulation in the U.S.:

California: The “sangria ban” in California that exists as a result of state legal code that bans bars and restaurants from mixing alcohol with fruit might be overturned. San Francisco Democrat Mark Leno will introduce a bill in the state’s Senate that will allow for the mixing of liquors with fruits, vegetables, and spices.

Connecticut: Democratic State Rep.-Elect Elaine O’Brien, who enters office in January, said that she continues to support the Sunday ban on alcohol sales in Connecticut. Liquor stores claim that the Sunday ban simply means their patrons buy more on Saturday night, but with Massachusetts recently repealing their 6.25%  percent sales tax on alcoholic beverages and New Hampshire liquor costing less on average than alcohol in Connecticut, some wonder if a ban on Sunday sales won’t simply encourage residents to purchase their liquor across state lines.

District of Columbia: D.C.’s Alcohol Control Board considers extending Georgetown’s moratorium on liquor licenses for five years. The ban on issuing liquor licenses has existed in Georgetown for over two decades.

Indiana: Lawmakers in the Hoosier State are making an attempt to legalize Sunday sales and to allow large retailers to have cold beer in their stores. Currently, Indiana law prevents grocery stores and gas stations from selling cold beer.

In other Indiana news, a lawmaker is attempting to roll back the “grandmother ID requirement” which was passed in the last legislative session and compels liquor and grocery store clerks to card everyone, even if they are clearly over the age of 21. State Sen. Jean Leising, who is in her 60s and a grandmother of seven, was prompted to change the law after being carded by a store clerk while shopping for her family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Maryland: An investigation by the state comptroller finds that the Liquor Control Board for Worcester County broke the law on a number of occasions, including price discrimination, illegal sales and purchases, and violating state trade practices. The organization’s staff will go through the due process and could face hefty fines and/or suspension. But the fine, up to $50,000, would just come from the taxpayers. The revelation has prompted calls to abolish the Liquor Control Board altogether.

New York: Forget about shipping a wine and cheese basket to anyone in New York. As my colleague Angela Logomasini pointed out in her article, the state bans the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and states that retailers can’t sell food and alcohol at the same time — which apparently applies to online retailers as well. Some online retailers get around the law by shipping the food basket in one container and the alcohol in another: “some assembly required.” Angela notes that New York isn’t alone in banning shipments of alcohol (with or without food). Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Utah also prohibit direct shipping.

North Carolina: Gov. Bev Perdue is considering privatizing the state-controlled liquor stores. Currently, liquor in the state can only be purchased in state-stores, which are open Monday through Saturday.

South Carolina: Lawmakers in South Carolina are working swiftly to correct their accidental ban on alcohol licenses for festivals and special events in the state. In an attempt to allow non-profit organizations to apply for the short-term licenses, they limited the licenses to just non-profits. Republican state Senator Chip Campsen has already introduced legislation to fix the mistake and a companion bill was introduced in the state House by Republican Rep. Chip Limehouse (guess you really can’t have just one). Both will first need to be vetted by their respective Judiciary Committees. In the meantime the South Carolina House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison plans to introduce a joint resolution instructing the Revenue Department to ignore the ban. With Christmas just around the corner many businesses are waiting anxiously for legislators to fix their flub.