News:

The following is from the New York State Liquor Authority Homepage: “On October 10, 2013, the SLA charged Southern Wine and Spirits with three violations for offering limited availability products, without price posting the products as required by statute. While the SLA’s investigation found the wholesaler was not discriminating among retailers, the wholesaler admitted to failing to price post limited availability products. On November 21, 2013, the SLA accepted Southern’s offer of $200,000 to settle the charges. The Alcoholic Beverage Control law requires that wholesalers of wine and spirits post their prices monthly with the SLA in order to ensure a level playing field where all licensed retailers are able to purchase products from wholesalers at the same prices. These provisions were enacted to create transparency and protect New York consumers and businesses from anti-competitive market behavior.” http://www.sla.ny.gov/sla-announces-200000-fine-for-wholesaler

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Two recent studies discuss alcohol advertising. The first, in Reuters, notes that “advertising for alcoholic beverages in magazines is largely in line with rules set by the U.S. government and industry, though in some cases just barely, according to a new study.” Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health determined that about 98 percent of alcohol ads in magazines between 2008 and 2010 met federal and industry standards. Meanwhile, The Spirits Business noted that while only 1% of magazine advertisements violated regulations, a number contained what was deemed “questionable content” thanks to ambiguous rules. Specifically, sexual representation in alcohol advertisements may not be subject to clear guidelines and that “compliance is largely a non-issue” due to the blurred definition of standards. “According to US federal standards, alcohol adverts cannot make false statements and any representations should not be judged as obscene or indecent, nor contain claims to benefit health. Meanwhile, the US Beer Institute and Distilled Spirits Council state that advertisements should not represent “promiscuity, gratuitous nudity, degrading images, or excessive consumption”.        

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Beginning January 1, 2014, distilleries in California may charge customers for tastings rather than just give away their samples for free. This new law provides distilleries the opportunity to do what California wineries and breweries had previously been able to do. Unfortunately, this new law does not also permit distilleries to sell their bottled product at their distillery though this is permissible in many other states. Section 23363.1 of the Business and Professions Code is amended to read, in pertinent part: (c) Tastings on the licensee’s premises shall be subject to the following conditions:(1) Tastings of distilled spirits shall not exceed one-fourth of one ounce and shall be limited to no more than six tastes per individual per day. (2) Tastings shall only include the products that are authorized to be produced or bottled by or for the licensee. (3) A person under 21 years of age shall not serve tastes of distilled spirits. (4) Tastings of distilled spirits shall not be given in the form of a cocktail or a mixed drink. (d) Notwithstanding Section 25600, the licensee may provide distilled spirits without charge for any tastings conducted pursuant to this section. The licensee may charge for tastings conducted by the licensee on its licensed premises. (e) This section shall not relieve the holder of a distilled spirits manufacturer’s license of any civil or criminal liability arising out of a violation of Section 25602.   To review the full text of the bill, visit this link (http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB933).    

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