Wine and Cheese Gift Baskets: Illegal in New York State

Here’s a whole new spin to “assembly required.” It is against New York State law to ship wine and cheese in one box, basket, or any package. Ditto for wine and chocolate. In fact, if you want to ship any food item along with wine to someone in the state, make sure you ship them in separate boxes. Recipients can then assemble them upon opening.

This is just one of a host of silly state-level regulations. This particular rule is a byproduct of the state’s ban on supermarket sales of wine and spirits. To achieve that end, state a law bans the sale of wine and spirits in places that sell food and wine for off-premise consumption. Supposedly, such rules protect us from ourselves — keeping consumers from over-indulging by making the purchase of alcohol less convenient.

In reality, these laws are designed to provide special-interest protections for existing wine retailers. To ensure liquor stores get all the profits, you must go to the supermarket for your food and make a separate stop at the liquor store (if you can find one) for your wine or spirits. And you must assemble your gift baskets at home.

Last year, legislators in New York considered revising this law, but changes never materialized. The same goes for Colorado and Tennessee. And a number of other states impose bans on food retailers from selling alcohol for off-premise consumption. Some states at least allow beer and some allow wine and beer in supermarkets. And a good number allow all alcohol to be sold in supermarkets — proving that convenience doesn’t promote immorality and alcohol abuse.

Let’s hope 2011 rings in both cheer and change. Just maybe New York, Colorado, and Tennessee legislatures will reconsider legislation that would allow consumers to buy wine and cheese all in one convenient location!

Image credit: swanksalot’s flickr photostream.