Thursday, February 08, 2007

KY's slippery slope (and wine)

No Sunshine, not the jelly...think "KY" as in "Kentucky", the state...and I'm referring to their position on internet and telephone sales...

This released by the Courier-Journal's online site:

"State regulators opened the door to shipments from small-farm wineries -- both inside and outside Kentucky -- when they unexpectedly decided to drop out of a federal lawsuit over the issue late last month.

The decision means that 43 licensed wineries in Kentucky are now able to ship wine to customers who place phone or online orders. Small wineries in other states will be eligible to do the same, but the state Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control hadn't received any applications for licenses as of yesterday [2/6/07]."

Now that's great news for Kentuckians, and great news for those small wineries within KY. And funny, too, that the KY Dept of Tourism [] only lists 22 wineries, not 43...maybe some of them aren't producing currently?

But overall it's still some bad news for KY as a state, as we see in the phrase used above "small wineries".

Why? The news item continues:

"To be considered for a shipping license, a winery must produce no more than 50,000 gallons of wine annually."

So it's bad news because all the big playa's (>50,000 gallons per year) with the deep pockets and departments full of tort-hungry attorneys can sue the state for not giving them equal access. So while they may have bought time by opting out of appeals of the current suit, they have much greater jeopardy to face when larger producers like a Gallo, or a Constellation, or ANYBODY for that matter producing more than 20,833 cases a year takes umbrage (I guess in this case size really does matter...). A larger-sized company would barely notice the costs of taking on the State of Kentucky. They're now out of the frying pan, and into the fire, so to speak.

As it is the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Kentucky (co-defendants in the case) are going to continue the fight, but won't seek to have shipping of the internet/phone sales blocked during the appeal of the judge's ruling back in December which declared the law unconstitutional - even though their pals at the state had argued that striking down the law would allow people in dry counties (good Lord - some still exist outside of Arkansas, Texas and Georgia?) and minors to skirt the law.

Sound like familiar arguments? Guess the State didn't think they had much of an appeal with just those tired points to be made again and again....

Too bad they didn't think far enough ahead to avoid opening themselves up to possible action from the Big Boys with Big Money. Maybe after they really get their pants sued off they'll realize that the access has to be across the board to all producers - regardless of production size.



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