The Wine Police Don’t Have Enough Work To Do
It’s 8:00am in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Like any good winery owner there, you are up, poised and set to receive Internet orders for your wine. Right then, an order from Flagstaff, Arizona comes in. They want Chardonnay; your award-winning Chardonnay. Your online system gratefully accepts the order, runs the credit card, accepts payment and BOOM…By 8:03 you are flush with your first sale of the day.
This, according to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who insists that because Arizona does not permit sales of alcohol between 2:00am and 6:00am. It may be 8:00am in the Shenandoah Valley. It may be that the Chardonnay hasn’t been delivered to the customer. It may be that you are not located in Arizona. No matter. The AG says you’ve broken the law.
This is exactly as stupid as it sounds. No…That’s not true. It’s even more stupid than it sounds.
Why would such an issue come up? Well, you’ll have to ask John Cocca, director of the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. He was apparently so concerned with this issue that he reached out to the Arizona AG for guidance.
“The attorney general, for his part, said he views the word “sell’’ to include not just delivering something.
“It also expressly includes soliciting or receiving an order,’’ Brnovich said. And that means a business “sells’’ alcoholic beverages when it takes the order.
More to the point, the attorney general said it’s irrelevant whether the seller charges the customer’s debit or credit card at that time — or when the products are delivered.
Cocca said all that is crucial to the question of what’s legal in Arizona.
“If you ordered and purchased at 3 in the morning, that would be against the law because you’re not allowed to order and purchase between 2 and 6,’’ he said.
He also said the only time that counts is what’s on the clock in Arizona. Cocca said it’s irrelevant if someone is ordering from an out-of-state winery where it might be 7 in the morning.”
What’s really interesting is that after getting the AG’s opinion on this important matter, Director Cocca did not immediately contact his legal staff and ask how such a ridiculous, archaic provision in the law could be changed rather than finding a way to enforce the law. Don’t you set out to change the law to not allowing delivery of alcohol between 2:00am and 6:00am? Instead, we get this response:
“But don’t worry that one of Cocca’s enforcement officers is going to be showing up at your door if you happen to successfully place an order in your pajamas.
He said Arizona’s liquor laws apply not to individuals but instead to the sellers who all have to be licensed by the state. That includes out-of-state firms that need to get a permit before delivering their products here.”
There are a lot of ways to look at this turn of events. The way I prefer to look at it is like this. Arizona needs to give the Director of Liquor Control more responsibilities. If he is spending his time wondering how he can put an end to online wine transactions that happen at 4:00am Arizona time, he clearly doesn’t have enough on his plate.
Equally important, this matter indicates, once again, that there is very little inclination in the alcohol regulatory community to take into account the way consumers do business in the 21st century. Too often there is exactly zero concern among regulators or lawmakers with the plight of the consumer. And this ludicrous example of regulatory absurdity is really an affront to the consumer, in addition to the winery — who, by the way, is the only entity legally allowed to ship wine to an Arizona consumer. It remains illegal for an Arizona consumer to receive shipments of wine from out-of-state retailers, auction houses or wine-of-the-month clubs.