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Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

Category archives for “laws and regulations governing alcoholic beverages”

Getting Started in the Business: Licensing

December 12th, 2013

This blog entry is part of a continuing series discussing important steps to get started in the alcoholic beverage industry. Once you have pinpointed a location for your business (discussed in a previous post, here), you will need to obtain a license, or a combination of licenses, before you commence operations.  To determine what type(s) of license(s) you need, here are some answers to questions you may be asking:

*   Do the Tied-House Laws Permit Me to Hold the Licenses I Want?  Federally and across all states, “tied house” laws generally prohibit the same person or entity from having an ownership interest in alcohol beverage businesses in more than one of the 3 tiers -manufacturing/importing, distribution and retail.  (To learn more about tied house laws, review this post.)  However, that restriction is far from absolute.  Many statutory exceptions have been carved out of the 3-tier system to permit cross-tier licensing and the resulting patchwork of exceptions can be difficult to comprehend.  For example, in California, wineries can also own restaurants (subject to restrictions) and certain off-sale retail stores.  Small breweries (less than 60,000 barrels/year) can own on-sale retailers but large breweries cannot.  Beer and wine wholesalers cannot also be retailers, unless they sell only wine through the retail store.  Other states have their own set of hard-to-explain exceptions.

*   What Does My License Permit Me to Do?  The general rule is that manufacturers sell to wholesalers; wholesalers sell to retailers; and retailers sell to consumers.  But this, too, is riddled with exceptions.  California wineries and breweries can sell their products directly to retailers and consumers without using a distributor, but distilled spirits manufacturers can sell only to distributors and cannot themselves hold a distributor license.  Rectifiers, on the other hand, can act as their own distributor and sell their products – and spirits products made by anyone else – directly to retailers.  Moreover, you may need more than one license to operate your business.  For example, if you are going to be operating a distillery, you will need a Type 4 (Distilled Spirits Manufacturer’s license), and a Type 6 (Still) license.  If you are importing distilled spirits from outside of California and distributing them to retailers you’ll need a Type 12 (Distilled Spirits Importer), and a Type 18 (Distilled Spirits Wholesaler).  California issues dozens of different licenses so it is important to know exactly what you want to do, which licenses are needed to accomplish it, and whether you are eligible to hold them.

*   What are the Processing Times to Obtain a License?  In California, it takes about 90-120 days to process an application for a new license, and slightly less time to transfer an existing license at a premises that is already licensed. It will take longer to process an application that is incomplete, contested by neighboring residents or the local authorities, or filed incorrectly.  Also keep in mind that the ABC cannot issue a license until it has received confirmation from the City/County that all required use permits have been obtained.  Each applicant will be assigned a local ABC investigator to handle the application until the process is completed.  Currently, U.S. Alcohol Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau (“TTB”) licenses are processing in about 90 days, similar to California licenses.

*   May I Obtain a Temporary Permit?  Provided that you are transferring an existing license at an already licensed premises, the California ABC may grant a temporary permit so you may operate your business while the license transfer application is being processed. A temporary permit is not available in connection with applications for new licenses or applications to transfer existing licenses to a premises that has not been previously licensed.

*    What Are the Costs Involved?  Depending on what type(s) of license(s) applied for, the cost can vary considerably.  A schedule of license costs is available here.  Some retail licenses are limited in numbers and must be purchased on the open market.  Prices for these licenses vary greatly by type and location.  For instance, a Type-47 (On-sale general eating place) may sell for $200,000 in San Francisco, whereas the same type of license in Fresno County currently only costs $12,000.

In conjunction with your ABC application, you may also need to obtain other federal, state or local licenses/permits.   In California this may include, for example:  federal licenses through the TTB; a certification from the Secretary of State that you are qualified to do business in the state; and a sales tax permit from the State Board of Equalization.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about applying for a license to get started in the alcohol beverage business.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Clarifications from the ABC on Sweepstakes and Contests in California

October 17th, 2013

On June 13, 2013, guests attending ShipCompliant’s “Direct 2013” conference heard from Matthew Botting, General Counsel to the California ABC, on supplier participation in sweepstakes and contests under California’s new law.  We’ve previously blogged about the new law here and here.

California Code of Regulations Title 4, Section 106 (“Rule 106”) has always allowed suppliers to “sponsor” a contest, meaning suppliers could give money or otherwise participate when the contest was organized by “bona fide amateur or professional organizations.”  Previously, the privilege was limited.  Now, the privileges are broader:  suppliers (including wineries) can now “conduct” a contest under recently enacted Business and Professions Code Section 25600.1, and conduct or sponsor a sweepstakes under 25600.2.  Mr. Botting discussed the different available privileges and their limitations:

*   “Conduct” means the promotion is managed and organized by the supplier.
*   “Sponsor” means it is someone else’s sweepstakes or contest and the supplier is providing a prize or other sponsorship of the promotion.
*    For the time being, suppliers can only sponsor a contest in accordance with the existing Rule 106, which means sponsorship is limited to a contest conducted by bona fide amateur or professional organizations.
*    Sponsoring a sweepstakes and conducting a sweepstakes or contest is now covered by Business and Professions Code Section 25600.1 and 25600.2.  Sweepstakes or contests cannot require a visit to a licensed premises of any kind, so there must be an alternate method of entry (“AMOE”) if entry forms are available at a licensee.
*     Sweepstakes and contests cannot be conducted on retail premises (e.g., a grocery store, liquor store, bar or restaurant).  A “retail premise” includes some locations you might not think of, such as: an unlicensed premises if a licensed caterer is present, or at an event held by a nonprofit under a one-day permit. The ABC considers events held with a caterer’s license or a nonprofit one-day permit to occur “at the premises of a retail licensee,” and therefore a supplier may only provide a means of entry at either of these types of events.
*     While suppliers may provide a means of entry for the contest or sweepstakes, the contest or sweepstakes may not be conducted at a winery or brewery’s duplicate tasting room.
*     A contest or sweepstakes can only be advertised at a retailer if it is advertised at a minimum of three different retailers, and winners shouldn’t be picked at a licensed retail event nor in a tasting room.

The full presentation by Mr. Botting can be seen here (starting at the 5:00 minute mark).

Before conducting or sponsoring any contest or sweepstakes, be sure to consult the relevant laws, Business & Professions Code Sections 25600.1, 25600.2, and, if applicable, Rule 106 (regarding contests), and pay particular attention to whether the supplier involved holds a license that allows it to participate.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about contests and sweepstakes in California or other states.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Governor Cuomo Signs Law Allowing New York Wine to be Sold at Local Farmers’ Markets

October 10th, 2013

On October 1, 2013, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law S. 267/A.1512, creating a new venue for New York wineries to sell their wines to consumers.  As of March 26, 2014, farm market stands may apply for a new “roadside farm market license” to sell New York State labeled wine that is produced by no more than 2 licensed farm wineries, micro-wineries or special wineries located within 20 miles of the roadside farmers’ market.

This law is in keeping with Governor Cuomo’s efforts to bolster the New York wine industry.  In a statement released after enacting the new law, Governor Cuomo said: “These new laws will build on our continuing efforts to promote New York’s wine industry across the state and beyond, boosting tourism, local economies and job growth.  We are increasing market opportunities for local producers and farmers…Our state is home to hundreds of wineries that produce some of the best wine in the world, and we want both New Yorkers and visitors to come and enjoy them.”

The new law does not include tasting privileges at the farm stands, which is probably not surprising, given the possible connection between wine tasting at a roadside stand and driving a car.  We’ll be interested to see if other states follow New York’s lead and enact legislation to license farm stands.

For the full text of the new law, click here.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have questions about licensing in New York or any other state.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Facebook Eases Restrictions on Promotions Conducted on Commercial Facebook Pages

September 11th, 2013

On August 27, 2013, Facebook announced changes to make it easier for businesses to create and administer promotions on the website.  This means any business – including alcohol beverage industry members – can now collect entries for sweepstakes or contests using Facebook itself.  Prior to these changes, all promotions on Facebook had to be administered through applications.  Now, promotions can be administered on Page Timelines or in applications, though they may not be administered on personal Timelines.  For example, now it is possible for businesses to:

- Collect entries by having users post on the company’s Page or comment/like a post

- Collect entries via messages users send to the company’s Page

- Have promotions including a voting element based on likes

You can read more about the changes here.  If you have any questions about the ins and outs of using social media as part of the business marketing and promotional plans for companies in the alcohol beverage industry, call one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Winery Direct Shipping Coming Soon to Montana

August 26th, 2013

Starting October 1, 2013, Montana will allow the direct shipment of wine to Montana residents by wineries that hold a Direct Shipment Endorsement. Holders of a Direct Shipment Endorsement may sell and directly ship up to 18 nine-liter cases of wine annually to an individual in Montana who is at least 21 years of age. Any in-state or out-of-state winery that is already registered with the Montana Department of Revenue must pay $50 and file associated paperwork to receive a Direct Shipment Endorsement, and wineries not already registered with the state will be able to simultaneously register with the state and apply for a Direct Shipper Endorsement. Applicants must submit a signed affidavit that they will contract only with common carriers that agree that wine will be delivered only to an individual in Montana who is at least 21 years old and who signs upon receipt of the wine. Records may be due every month and every quarter, and must be held for state inspection for up to three years. All taxes must be paid quarterly and tax records submitted monthly (by the 15th date of the following month) to the Department of Revenue. If a holder of a Direct Shipment Endorsement uses a bonded wine warehouse for fulfillment purposes, the endorsement holder must file a written notice that includes the name and address of the warehouse. The state also requires pre-approval of all wine labels to be shipped into the state. Stay tuned as Montana will likely issue regulations and step-by-step instructions in the coming months.

If you have any questions about shipping wine directly to Montana residents, or residents of any other state, contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Kentucky Changes Alcohol Beverage Laws – Requires Out of State Shipper’s Licenses for Wine and Spirits

August 14th, 2013

With the passage of Senate Bill 13 (“SB 13”), effective June 25, 2013, Kentucky modernized its alcoholic beverage laws in an effort to make them more effective and efficient for manufacturers, distributors and retailers alike.  This modernization included consolidating licenses, simplifying the licensing process, and most importantly for out of state wine and spirits suppliers, it created an out of state shipper permit.  Prior to the revisions, beer suppliers were required to hold a license to ship to Kentucky distributors but suppliers of distilled spirits and wine were not.

The new Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producers/Supplier license application is available here:  http://abc.ky.gov/License%20Applications%202013/outofstate.pdf

Three classes of the new Out-of-State Distilled Spirits/Wine Producers/Supplier license are available:

-  Out of State Producer/Supplier for 50,000 gallons or more ($1,550 a year/$3,100 for 2 years);
-  Limited Producer/Supplier for 2,001 to 49,999 gallons ($260 a year/$520 for 2 years); and
-  Micro-Producer/Supplier for 2,000 gallons or less ($10 a year/$20 for 2 years).

Below are some of the other key changes ushered in by the passage of SB 13:

-  Consolidates 88 different license types into 44, changing the names of the licenses and fees associated with each, but keeping unchanged the privileges afforded to the licensees.  A few examples:  A “Vintner” license is now a “Winery” license, a “Blender’s” license was eliminated and its privileges consolidated into the “Rectifier’s” license.
-  Allows a two-year license term renewal for manufacturers and wholesalers, in addition to a one-year license option.
-  Bundles together several non-quota retail-drink licenses.
-  Creates a Transporter license, consolidating six former transportation-related licenses into one.
-  Eliminates bond requirements for many license types
-  Changes the licensing structure for microbreweries.

For more information on the changes to Kentucky’s alcohol beverage laws, visit the Kentucky Liquor Control’s information page at http://www.klc.org/UserFiles/files/KACOinfosheet.pdf

And of course, you can always call one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have any questions about any of the changes to Kentucky’s alcohol beverage laws, or if you have any general questions about shipping to distributors in any state.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

 

TTB Issues Guidance on Social Media Advertising

July 9th, 2013

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) recently released Industry Circular 2013-1, “Use of Social Media in the Advertising of Alcohol Beverages.” Most importantly, TTB dispels any notions that the advertising regulations in 27 CFR parts 4 (wine), 5 (distilled spirits), and 7 (malt beverages) don’t apply to social media, and confirms that those rules “apply to all advertisements… in any media, including social media.” The Circular goes on to address unique issues for advertising within specific social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

TTB regulations define an advertisement as “any written or verbal statement, illustration, or depiction which is in, or calculated to induce sales in, interstate or foreign commerce, or is disseminated by mail, whether it appears in a newspaper, magazine, trade booklet, menu, wine card, leaflet, circular, mailer, book insert, catalog, promotional material, sales pamphlet, or any written, printed, graphic, or other matter accompanying the container, representations made on cases, billboard, sign, or other outdoor display, public transit card, other periodical literature, publication, or in a radio or television broadcast, or in any other media.” Content that qualifies as an advertisement must contain certain information, including a responsible advertiser statement that includes the name and address of the industry member responsible for the ad, as well as the product’s class, type, or distinctive designation. Certain content is also prohibited from appearing in ads, such as statements that are false, that disparage a competitor’s product, or that are obscene or indecent.

TTB’s Circular addresses how the advertising regulations apply to specific social media platforms. Particularly relevant points include the following:

- Facebook: A “fan page” constitutes one advertisement, so mandatory statements need to appear only once on a page, and should appear on the industry member’s “profile page;” rules on prohibited content apply to all material posted by the industry member, including material the industry member re-posts.

- Twitter: Mandatory statements are not required in each tweet, and instead must appear on the industry member’s profile page or equivalent.

- YouTube and other video-sharing websites: Videos that fit the definition of an advertisement must include mandatory statements within the actual video, not only on the page where the video is located.

- Blogs: Industry member blogs qualify as ads to which the rules on mandatory and prohibited content apply.

- Mobile Applications: Apps must include the company name or brand name of the product advertised.

The main take-away from TTB’s Circular is that industry members should monitor all social media channels to ensure that content complies with TTB regulations. Consult TTB’s guidance or call one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel for guidelines on advertising through a particular social media platform.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

TTB Says Alcohol Content Can Move to the Back Label for Wine

June 10th, 2013

Announced today, and effective August 9, 2013, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB) has announced changes to its labeling requirements for wine. Amending 27 CFR 4.32, the alcohol content for wine no longer must appear on the brand label, and instead it may be printed on the brand label or on other labels affixed to the bottle, including the back label. The TTB also amended 27 CFR 4.36 to the effect that wines with alcohol content of at least 7 percent and no more than 14 percent may still be labeled with either (a) the designation of “light wine” or “table wine” on the brand label, or (b) the numerical alcohol content of the wine. The new amendments do not permit the “light wine” or “table wine” designations to appear on any label other than the brand label. A new COLA is not required if the only change made to an approved label is the relocation of the alcohol content statement.  If you have any questions about labeling, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

Taking Advantage of the California Sweepstakes and Contests Laws

May 14th, 2013

As most alcohol suppliers are now aware, California added two new statutes this year permitting alcohol suppliers to conduct contests and sweepstakes that are open to California residents. California had long been the only U.S. state that prohibited alcohol suppliers from including its residents in these kinds of promotions, but that changed in January. We previously blogged about these new laws here. The new laws offer suppliers new avenues to conduct promotions in California but it’s important to note that only specifically listed types of supplier licensees are authorized to conduct contests and sweepstakes in California. Authorized licensees are: winegrower (Type 2 License), beer and wine importer general (Type 10 License), beer manufacturer (Type 1 License), out-of-state beer manufacturer certificate holder (Type 26 License), distilled spirits manufacturer (Type 4 License), distilled spirits manufacturer’s agent (Type 5 License), distilled spirits importer general (Type 13 License), distilled spirits general rectifier (Type 24 License), rectifier (Type 7 License), out-of-state distilled spirits shipper’s certificate holder (Type 28 License), brandy manufacturer (Type 3 License), and brandy importer (Type 11 License).

The statutes specifically exclude wholesalers (Type 17 and 18 Licenses) and retailers of all types. They also exclude beer and wine importer general (Type 10 License) and distilled spirits importer general (Type 13 License) licensees that hold “only a wholesaler’s or retailer’s license as an additional license.” So, although the laws include Type 10 and Type 13 importers, those licensees would be excluded if they also hold a wholesaler’s license and no other supplier license. Accordingly, holders of the popular 9/17/20 license combination, and holders of 10/17 and 13/18 combinations are not eligible to conduct contests or sweepstakes under the new provisions. The exception to this would be if they hold another specifically included license type, such as a winegrower’s license.

We received a number of calls from suppliers unclear on whether they are included in the new laws so we hope this post helps to clarify. If you have any questions about the contest/sweepstakes laws or other promotional activities, in California or elsewhere, contact an attorney at Strike & Techel.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2013 · All Rights Reserved ·

TTB Allows Beer Returns Based on Freshness Dating

December 19th, 2012

In response a request from industry members, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) recently issued Ruling 2012-4, which addresses whether brewers may require wholesalers to pull beer from retailers that is past its freshness date and replace it with fresh beer. Many beers now include freshness dates, and some brewers ask distributors to remove beer from the retail market that is past its freshness date. Brewers argue that this ensures that consumers get fresh product, but the practice is arguably at odds with laws prohibiting consignment sales.

The FAA act makes it unlawful for industry members, including beer producers, importers, and wholesalers, to sell, offer for sale, or contract to sell to any retailer on consignment, under conditional sale, with the privilege of return, or on any basis otherwise than a bona fide sale. See 27 U.S.C. § 205(d). There are limited exceptions to this prohibition, but only for those “ordinary and usual commercial reasons” included in 27 C.F.R. §§ 11.32 – 39. The limited exceptions when an industry member may accept a return include: a) defective product, b) shipment error, c) change in law preventing the sale of a product, d) termination of the buyer’s business or franchise, e) change in product from that held in inventory, and f) possible spoilage of product during the off-season of a seasonal retailer.

None of the exceptions to the consignment sales law clearly applies to returns based on freshness dating, thus prompting the TTB’s Ruling. The Ruling makes clear that under certain conditions, returns based on freshness dating are permitted under the exception for “defective products” found in 27 C.F.R. § 11.32. Those conditions are as follows:

-          The brewer has policies and procedures in place that specify the date after which the retailer must pull the product;

-          The brewer’s freshness return/exchange policies and procedures are readily verifiable and consistently followed by the brewer;

-          The container has identifying markings that correspond with this date; and

-          The malt beverage product pulled by the retailer may not re-enter the retail marketplace.

Finally, the TTB noted that wholesalers may not force retailers to overstock the wholesaler’s products under the pretext that the retailer may exchange product based on the freshness date, and that such practices would violate consignment sale and tied-house laws.

Contact one of the attorneys at Strike & Techel if you have any questions about TTB rules and regulations.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved ·