IL Liquor Commission Attorney sees NO PROBLEM of Wine Sales To Minors

Bill O’Donaghue’s job is simple. Don’t spin. Don’t campaign. Don’t Distort. Just give straightforward legal advice to the Illinois Illinois State Liquor Control Commission. That straightforwardness apparently applies to interviews also.

The Illinois Liquor Control Commission is charged with overseeing the application and regulation process of alcoholic beverages in Illinois. You’ll be in contact with them if you want to make or sell alcohol in Illinois. And if you break the rules, you’ll likely have an encounter with them.

There is a lot of talk in Illinois these days about law breaking. Specifically, there is a lot of talk about minors obtaining alcohol over the Internet. In supporting a proposed law that would ban all direct shipment of wine to Illinois residents, from inside or outside the state, politicians, lobbyists and industry leaders are claiming they must stop this from happening. The implication is that it is a problem.

No one making these charges has been able to come up with any evidence of Internet sales of wine to minors beyond, "yea, well, we…we..just know it’s happening."

While this has a ring to it, it doesn’t quite get to the issue. So, I thought I’d investigate the "problem", which brought me in contact with Bill O’Donaghue, Chief Legal Counsel for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission.

Mr. O’Donaghue told me the following:

"I’ve been here since January 2004, and since then I’ve yet to see any hard, empirical data that minors are buying alcohol on the Internet…I’ve never seen anyone charged with selling alcohol to minors on the Internet….And, we’ve had zero complaints from parent contacting us about their child obtained alcohol on the Internet."

However, Mr. O’Donaghue has had parents cal the Liquor Control Commission complaining that their child has obtained alcohol from a brick and mortar store, those establishments served almost exclusively by the wholesalers, the very people making the claim that INTERNET sales to minors must be stopped.

In sum, Mr. O’Donaghue told me, "there doesn’t seem to be any epidemic of minors buying alcohol on the Internet. They do what they’ve always done. They get their alcohol from the stores."

Wholesalers and politicians now pushing the proposed Illinois law to ban all direct shipping of wine to consumers make it appear that NOW, after the Supreme Court decision on wine shipping, Illinois must act to stop kids from getting their hands on wine via the Internet. What they’ve not mentioned is that for many years direct shipping to consumers has been in place in Illinois with "zero" apparent problems.

Why now?

The fact remains that beyond Mr. O’Donaghue’s own statements, there is no study ever conducted that looks into whether minors buy alcohol on the Internet. The only time it apparently happens is when stings are conducted. Usually with wholesaler prodding, Attorney Generals have a minor sit in front of a computer and try to order wine. They often accomplish it. Based upon these stings, he Attorney Generals and Wholesalers call for a ban on sales of wine over the Internet.

Yet, stings on brick and mortar stores are often undertaken by law enforcement authorities that also yield results. Sometimes the offending establishments are shut down for a while. Sometimes the are fined. But I’ve never heard a call for all brick and mortar establishments to be prohibited from selling alcohol.

Posted In: Shipping Wine


3 Responses

  1. Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois - January 13, 2006

    The Illinois Wineries thank you for your supporting us in this battle. We will need all the support we can get.
    By the way, we have submitted our own house bill 4444 to fight against 4350.
    Your friend in wine,
    Christina Anderson-Heller
    Marketing Director
    Lynfred Winery
    Roselle, Illinois

  2. allan - January 14, 2006

    Actually, one time, in the 20s there was a push to ban brick and mortar stores from selling alchohol (although, oddly enough, the Internet was not mentioned). As I am sure you know, this ban went over real well.

  3. Alcohol Abuse Info Junkie - December 11, 2006

    Certainly the Attorney General could have come up with a more reasonable and less drastic way to significantly reduce sales of wine to minors via the Internet. Banning all direct shipments of wine to Illinois residents, from inside or outside the state, in an attempt to stop minors from buying wine off the Internet is a classic case of “overkill.” The fact is that there may be more minors purchasing wine over the Internet than previously thought. So why not focus specifically on this segment of the population rather than on EVERY segment of the population?
    While I’m not a legal expert, why didn’t the Attorney General research other areas of industry to observe what they do to avoid transactions with minors? For instance, how do Internet retailers who sell firearms insure that they are not selling guns or ammunition to minors? How do out-of state realtors make sure they are not involved in real estate deals with minors? How do Internet car salespersons make sure they are not selling vehicles to minors? The answers to questions such as these could have led to a proposed law that made more sense from political, economical, and from a social standpoint.

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