Did The Wine Regulators Get The Message?

archaicToday in Chicago alcohol regulators from across the country gather at their annual convention: The National Conference of State Liquor Administrators Annual Conference. These are the folks that enthusiastically enforce the remnants of the Three-Tier System of alcohol distribution.

It’s either a remarkable coincidence or no coincidence at all that just as this meeting of Three Tier proponents takes place, one of the most concise take downs of the Three Tier System is published by R Street, a free-market think tank.

Written by drinks author Charles Cowdery, “Do We Still Need the Three Tier System for Alcohol” alcohol dismantles the rationale for keeping the Three Tier System as well as pulling back the veil on its hypocrisy.

Explaining the now distant circumstances that led to the creation of the Three Tier System 80+ years ago after repeal of Prohibition, Cowdery notes the following:

“Yet the pre-Prohibition abuses are no longer a problem, because they are regulated in other ways. All retailers are licensed and can lose their licenses for rules violations. States, counties and municipalities control hours of operation, and can pull the license of a retailer or bar that serves drinks to persons who are already intoxicated. Many states prohibit price promotions such as “happy hours” that can encourage overconsumption. States may set minimum prices to cut down drinks-fueled misbehavior. Technology allows regulators to monitor compliance in ways never anticipated in 1933.”

The point Cowdery leads up to and that is self-evident even to the distributors, lawmakers and regulators that still support this System, is that retailers, restaurants, producers and, most of all, consumers would all be better off if the system were abolished. As Cowdery points out distributors primarily oppose the demolition of the Three Tier System because “instead of having business bestowed on them by law, they will have to work for it.”

I met one alcohol regulator last week in a distant state who understood perfectly the role of the regulators who are now meeting in Chicago: “Our role is to carry out the law, not support it or oppose it.”

That’s a unique perspective among alcohol regulators who too frequently see their job as defending the archaic and often useless remnants of the System. Let’s hope many of those meeting in Chicago have read the R Street essay.

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