Local Wine Co's Blog

State Laws Prohibit Spirit Sales by cdbakunas
September 30, 2010, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Libations, Travel

More Dumb Laws in Distributing Spirits

I’ve just spent a week working in Wyoming where we have been selling our wines for the last three years.  First off, if you have not been to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone you, as an American, need to visit. This is truly the last remnant of the Wild West and mountain frontier.  The Tetons are a sight to behold, dominating upheavals of earth that pierce the sky with year round snow capped peaks and jagged rocks like incisors biting for the clouds.  The slopes are slate grey, powdered pewter in color with pines, cottonwoods and aspens at the base and bare nothingness at the heights.  They are breathtaking examples of mountains, and they are right here in America! God, what a beautiful country we live in.  If you want to hike, climb, ski, and explore this is rugged country that beckons the strong and intimidates the weak.  Every time I visit I can’t help but think of the frontiersmen and women who braved the brutal winters, rugged terrain, and wild animals to establish a community valley that is Jackson Hole. Those first people were cut from cloth that is stronger than most NFL linebackers. And when you get a chance to talk with the old timers and hear their stories and the stories of their parents you feel that you missed an epoch when men were men and women were so strong they could move mountains themselves. It is awesome.

Now back to the asinine spirit laws of our country.  Sales of spirits and distribution of spirits is concluded on an individual state level. Thus each state has its own say in how spirits are brought into the market and who can distribute and sell.  Wyoming is one of those unique states that are controlled. By saying controlled what I mean is that every bottle of spirit to be consumed by the consumer must be first purchased by the state, brought to their state run warehouse, then trucked out to a friendly retailer or restaurant (at a significant mark up).  Why we still have impediments to doing business in the alcohol industry is beyond me, but this is the system that we must work within.  For example, if a friendly restaurateur would like to buy our delicious Small’s American Dry Gin they will need to call the Wyoming Liquor Commission and place a special order. Then I get a phone call and a fax requesting a case of the spirit to be sent to Cheyenne where they will receive the product and then at some unknown date in the future send the product out to the lucky and expectant restaurateur.  I’ve heard horror stories where wine and spirits are ordered directly through the state and the shipment does not arrive for 4-6 weeks (sometimes even longer). There are two serious drawbacks to this system. When state governments acts as businesses, like the DMV or the WY Liq Commission, they are so far removed from normal business to business protocols that there is almost always a telltale lackadaisicalness in getting the job done. Delays are common place and lack of motivation is rampant. I don’t know about you but when a customer of mine says, “Yes, I love that product, please ship me two cases,” I’m going to ship that shit tomorrow…not two months from now.

The other major drawback to state controlled alcoholic beverage programs is that they inherently limit the choices. Major, giant brands get “listed” or put on the published document as to what is available, while small craft or artisan brands often cannot even get into the state.  As the craft distillery revolution and craft beer explosion continues control states stand in the way of normal small business Americans making a living and expanding their base of consumers.

Hopefully in my lifetime we will see some measure of reform that puts wine and spirits on an even and fair program.


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