The FY 2015 state budget signed by Governor Deval Patrick last week includes a provision that creates a new Direct Wine Shipper license in Massachusetts. The law will take effect on January 1, 2015 and will take Massachusetts off of a dwindling list of states that bar direct wine shipping, a list that includes: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Utah. This change in Massachusetts law comes after intense pressure by industry groups and local sports figures.
The new law requires wineries, vineyards, or manufacturers to apply for a state-issued shipping license and pay a $300 fee, with a $150 renewal fee every year. All shipped packages must be marked to require a signature upon deliver with the words “CONTAINS ALCOHOL: REQUIRES SIGNATURE OF AND PERSONAL DELIVERT TO A PERSON LEGALLY AUTHORIZED TO CONSUME ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES IN THE COMMONWEALTH” with a seal of licensure. The wine must be purchased and shipped to a Massachusetts resident who is 21 years of age and older. The new license allows shippers to deliver no more than 12 cases of wine to consumers each year.
Any person, firm, or corporation who violates these new provisions will be deemed to have engaged in a deceptive act or practice under chapter 93A and may be subject to license suspension or fines.
The new law does not address the delivery-truck law which requires a delivery permit for each truck involved in the delivery of alcohol, at a cost of $200 per permit. Most states allow for one permit to cover an entire freight company. According to the Boston Globe, State Representative Ted Speliotis of Danvers will push for a fleet-wide permit system if the existing law has a detrimental effect to wine shippers.
Not that long ago, it was quite unusual to find alcoholic beverages for sale at a
gasoline station in Massachusetts. However, the advent of convenience stores linked to gasoline stations is rapidly changing that situation. A recent decision by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) illustrates the trend.
In 2011, Northgate Mobil in Revere filed an application with the Revere Licensing Board to obtain a license to sell all alcoholic beverages, for off premises consumption (i.e., a “package store” license). Northgate Mobil already held an off-premises consumption license to sell wine and beer, and wanted to upgrade to sell spirits as well. In December 2011, the Revere Board denied Northgate Mobil’s application, stating in part that a liquor license was inappropriate for an establishment “so closely associated with the operation of motor vehicles”. The applicant appealed the decision to the ABCC, and the ABCC recently ruled in favor of Northgate Mobil.
The ABCC cited a number of factors in support of its disapproval of the Revere Board’s denial. For instance, Northgate Mobil had never been disciplined for violating laws or regulations relating to alcohol sales, and explained to the ABCC why that was no accident “the store’s owner spends approximately 50 hours a week on the premises, and all of the store’s employees and managers are trained in-house in the proper handling of alcoholic beverages sales.” Furthermore, not only was there no local opposition to the expanded license, but one city councilor appeared at the hearing and declared support for the license on behalf of himself and his constituents.
Intriguingly, the ABCC also took issue with the Revere Board’s core finding that the application should be denied because Northgate Mobil was “closely associated with the operation of motor vehicles.” Even though the applicant operates a gas station, the ABCC quite logically noted that “All off-premises alcoholic beverages licenses by their very nature generally involve an individual driving to the premises, purchasing the alcohol, and then leaving the premises with the alcoholic beverages and consuming it somewhere else”.
Given the ABCC’s recognition that most package store sales occur to consumers who have driven to the store, whether or not it is located at a gas station, their roadmap was clear the ABCC remanded Northgate Mobil’s application to the Revere Board for further consideration, with the recommendation that Revere grant Northgate Mobil’s application for an all alcoholic beverages license.