Wine Wholesaling Empire Strikes Back:Eight Teams of Lawyers Now Lined Up To Preserve Monopoly Against Direct Interstate Shipment to Consumers

John Kramer
John Kramer · March 27, 2000

Washington, D.C.-Attempting to transform a federal lawsuit into a circus, seven new parties have sought to intervene to defend the wholesalers monopoly against efforts to permit direct interstate wine shipments to New York consumers.

The lawsuit was brought by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice on behalf of two small Virginia and California wineries and three New York wine consumers, challenging a state law that forbids direct wine shipments from out-of-state wineries but permits them from New York wineries. All out-of-state wines may be sold only through wholesalers and package stores.

“We set out to prove that this law is pure economic protectionism,” declared Clint Bolick, the Institute for Justice’s litigation director. “All of these intervening parties are proving our case. This is the frenzied reaction of a monopoly desperately seeking to protect its turf.”

Moving to intervene are four wholesalers, Peerless Importers Inc., Charmer Industries, Inc., Eber Bros. Wine & Liquor Corp., and Premier Beverage Company LLC; along with Local 2D of the Allied Food and Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO; the Metropolitan Package Store Association, Inc.; and Pastor Calvin Butts, who claims to promote temperance.

Along with the state Attorney General, there are now eight teams of lawyers amassed against the Institute for Justice.

“Can anyone say David versus Goliath?” Bolick quipped.

Thirty states have laws forbidding direct shipment of wine from out-of-state wineries directly to consumers. Federal courts in Indiana and Texas recently invalidated such prohibitions in those states. Meanwhile, small wineries and Internet retailers await access to New York-the nation’s second largest wine market.

A status conference will be held on Thursday, March 30 at 10:30 a.m. before federal Judge Richard M. Berman.