The Wine Distributor Protection Act of 2007

Yes, this editorial is a little late, but it is still on the mark.

Last week Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed HB 429 into law. It takes effect on June 1, 2008.

You remember this law. It’s the one that many have come to call "The Wine Distributor Protection Act of 2007". It’s also the law that the codifies the idea that wine Illinoisans obtain from out-of-state retailers is down right dangerous and must be prohibited from coming into the state. And so, this law does just that. Illinoisans may no longer legally have wine shipped to them from out-of-state wine retailers.

You see it’s very simple. Illinoisans are safe when they buy wine from out-of-state wineries. They are safe when they buy wine from in-state wineries. And Illinoisans remains safe when they buy and have wine shipped to them from Illinois-based wine retailers. However, something very terrible will happen if an Illinois resident buys and has shipped to them wine from an out-of-state wine store. At this writing we are still attempting to determine the nature of that threat. It’s just not clear. But it’s out there somewhere.

What’s the upshot of this ugly legislation?

Illinoisans will lose access to thousands of wines they either can’t get in-state or from out-of-state  wineries. Illinoisans will now pay higher prices for wine, particularly for rare wines that are hard to find in the state.

The other upshot is that Illinois liquor, wine and beer distributors can sleep well knowing that the $5.4 million they contributed to Illinois politicians since 2000 has been well spent. They got what they wanted: Consumers now have less access to wine and distributors have decreased the competition they are subject to so that they are now free to make even greater profits so that they might "contribute" even more money to politicians.

The Chicago Tribune editorial, though late in coming, did get it correct when they wrote:

"For years, Illinois laws have interfered with the wine market in ways
that do nothing to benefit the average tippler. It’s time for the state
to get out of the way and let buyers and sellers work out the
arrangements that suit them best."

Yes, I have a vested interest in this issue, being the executive director of the only national or non-Illinois wine organization that opposed this law
. So, you may want to take with a grain of salt my opposition to legislation that is unconstitutional, deprives consumers of access to a legal product, and shuts retailers out of a market they’ve cultivated legally for 15 years. The legislators and Governor of Illinois certainly didn’t seem to give much weight to these issues. However, just know that by taking all this with a grain of salt doesn’t mean you too will be receiving millions of dollars from Illinois wholesalers.


4 Responses

  1. Jill - October 8, 2007

    This law sucks. We actually got some press in Illinois early on (how, I’m not sure) and so we have (had) a base of loyal customers there. Big big bummer.

  2. Opus the Rat Snifter - October 8, 2007

    “Illinois liquor, wine and beer distributors can sleep well knowing that the $5.4 million they contributed to Illinois politicians since 2000″…
    FIVE POINT FOUR MILLION DOLLARS?! Why those greedy bastards! How dare they! Right in front of Illinoisions noses! I bet they’ll be voted out of office – so that their replacements can get some of this nice, shiny cash. Don’t they call this Corruption? Oh yeah, that’s in other countries – here in the US? Business-as-usual.

  3. Dan Cochran - October 9, 2007

    This sort of government-by-bribery has become so commonplace, I’m starting to think that the only we Americans can REALLY take back our country is by civil disobedience. That’s how prohibition was ended.

  4. Randy - October 9, 2007

    Tom, tell us how you REALLY feel…
    Seriously, I weep quietly for Illinoisans, even though I know that the battle in the courts is not yet fully joined. Why an oligarchy (i.e. wine distributors) are allowed to game the system in their favor, while the public stands idly by and twiddles their collective thumbs, it’s truly puzzling.

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