Promoting a Misunderstanding of America’s Wine Consumers
The Center for Alcohol Policy, a creation of the National Beer Wholesalers Association that works on behalf of beer wholesalers and has the interests of no one but beer wholesalers in mind, has funded the release of a new little book for state alcohol regulators: “Alcohol Beverage Control: The Basics for New State Alcohol Regulators.”
The description of the new book delivers an assertion that is not only incorrect, but in fact if believed and if pursued as the truth or as a model for understanding alcohol regulation, we will find a new generation of alcohol regulators completely misunderstanding the nature of America’s alcohol marketplace.
That assertion is this: “There is no national alcohol market. There are 50 different alcohol markets by constitutional design.”
Any understanding of alcohol regulation based on this principle will result in a regulatory regime that is decidedly anti-consumer. Not quite as important, but equally true, is that the idea there is no national marketplace for alcohol is a notion that provides a continued foundation for America’s alcohol middle men—wholesalers—to dominate and control the alcohol industry in the same way that the tied house model allowed producers to control markets pre-Prohibition and that led to the kind of corruption that inspired the move to Prohibition.
First, we know there is a national marketplace because consumers have decidedly determined by their purchasing habits that they are more than willing to explore alcohol options far beyond their state borders. They happily seek out new, hard-to-find, rare and regional bottlings of beer, wine, spirits and cider that simply don’t show up in their state stores. Just as important, the producers are more than happy, willing and able to sell their products to this increasingly important segment of consumers.
An Efficient logistics and shipping industry makes this possible as well as the expansion in access to information provided by the Internet.
Any view of alcohol regulation that promotes the notion of their being no national marketplace purposefully ignores this 21st century reality and is flawed from the get-go. However, such a view of alcohol regulation does serve to provide wholesalers with a means of controlling product distribution and retarding the growth of the American alcohol marketplace—particularly for small producers and the consumers that seek them out.
Written by Roger B. Johnson, a 38-year veteran of the Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement Unit of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, ” “Alcohol Beverage Control: The Basics for New State Alcohol Regulators.”, also describes the primary concerns of alcohol beverage regulation:
•Preventing Tied Houses
•Ensuring public safety by penalizing underage or over-service of alcohol beverages
•Collecting state revenue from excise taxes
•Providing Education and Training to the Industry
•Balance desires for a “free market economy” with the goal of promoting temperance
These are all legitimate and important areas of concentration and concern not only for alcohol regulators but for the industry and the public. Still, without a proper understanding of how a modern American alcohol market operates, without an appreciation for the nationalization of the alcohol beverage economy (particularly as it relates to craft and small artisan products) and without a regulatory community willing to take as their mandate something more than protecting the favored position of the middle tier then the young alcohol regulators this book is aimed at will find those whom they regulate as well as consumers demonstrating too much disdain for their work.