Message From Michigan: “We Hate You, Wine Lovers”
Representative Jim Stamas has introduced a bill that would (finally) give MI wine consumers the ability to bring a bottle of their own wine into a restaurant to consume with their meal. However, the law REQUIRES that restaurants charge diners AT LEAST a $25 corkage fee for the privilege.
AT LEAST $25.
Since when is the state in charge of setting the price of corkage? Surely such a law might say restaurants MAY change a fee. But telling them they MUST and then setting $25 as the minimum? This kind of screw-the-consumer stupidity must have a source. Of course it does. That source is the notorious Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, the most anti-consumer, anti-business organization in the state of Michigan and among the most prolific purchasers of politicians in America.
My sources tell me that originally this association of Michigan wholesalers demanded that the minimum fee be set at $50 for a consumer to bring a bottle of wine into a restaurant and consume it. This kind of absurd demand by the Wholesalers was surely a negotiating position in order to assure that what minimum fee was placed into the bill was put in the bill in the first place and that it was relatively high and that so that the Wholesalers could look like compromisers, and still have their profits protected. They way they see it, every time a consumer enjoys their own wine in a restaurant, that’s a bottle that they sold to a restaurant not leaving the restaurant’s inventory, making room for another of their wines to be placed in the restaurant’s inventory.
But they really had no need to compromise on their demands.
It turns out that the sponsor of this corkage bill, Representative Jim Stamas, has receive thousands of dollars in “campaign contributions” from the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association over his past few elections. In fact, during Rep. Stamas’ past three elections, the Wholesalers were his largest campaign contributors. HIS LARGEST.
But here’s the punchline concerning the proposed $25 minimum corkage fee: The Beer and Wine Wholesalers are touting it as a money saver for consumers:
“And ultimately, it may even lead to some savings for restaurant-goers:
‘It’s very hard to say what the average markup is on a bottle of wine at a restaurant because it varies, but it’s significant,’ [Mike] Lashbrook of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers said. ‘It can often be 100 percent or more. Between a $25 uncorking fee or a markup, I’d say the markup is going to be more most of the time.”
Michigan is among the most anti-wine consumer states in the country because its lawmakers are in the grip of what is easily one of the most anti-consumer wholesaler associations in the United States. The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association are group that worked as hard as they could to stop direct shipping in that state, with the help of lawmakers. They hare the ones who, upon learning that the ban on out-of-state wine stores shipping to Michigan consumers was overturned in the courts, proposed a law that would allow such shipments from out-of-state, but only if the wine stores used their own vehicles to deliver the wines and prohibiting the use of FedEx or UPS to ship the wine. That law was written and passed in a matter of days by lawmakers who had received thousands of dollars from the wholesalers.
The point of a law that requires a $25 minimum fee to be charged for corkage is simple and straight forward: Do what you can to prevent consumers from taking advantage of the privilege, while looking like you’ve actually granted consumers something of value. It’s cynical. But, it’s par for the course for the bought and paid for Michigan lawmakers and for the most anti-consumer group of wholesalers in America.