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Overdose on Michigan Wine Law

This past weekend, the state of Michigan hit wine law news on two very important, but separate accounts. Firstly, last Wednesday, the Michigan House and Senate passed legislation with respect to liquor control policy in the state. The Senate and the House both passed a bill that allows Michigan establishments to sell alcohol on Sunday mornings by permit. Additionally, the bill allows restaurants and bars to extend free samples of beer, wine and spirits to their customers. (See more at Michigan Lawmakers Pass Two Liquor Control Policies.)

Additionally, the Michigan wine legislation that allows for liquor sales on Sunday mornings appears to have “an overshadowed portion that could hurt Michigan’s wineries.” (See Liquor Bill Angers Some Wine Enthusiasts.) There is a section of the wine bill that prevents wineries from selling their wine products to multiple wine distributors located within a particular region. Accordingly, this could severely hurt the business and customer market for both large- and small-scale wineries within the state of Michigan.

On the upside, the bill does allow wineries within the state of Michigan to charge for wine tastings and to allow wine tastings in supermarkets.

(Sources: Liquor Bill Angers Some Wine Enthusiasts;Michigan Lawmakers Pass Two Liquor Control Policies; State Legislature Approves Alcohol Sales on Sunday.)

Lindsey A. Zahn


Lindsey is the founder and author of On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog. She is an alcohol beverage and food attorney and is admitted to the New York State Bar.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Tim Freehan November 15, 2010, 11:37 AM

    The “overshadowed” portion of the legislation that you referred to is particulalry infuriating to those of us who are suppliers to the market. It means that large wholesalers can keep small wineries from finding new representation when their current wholesale partner is doing a poor job. It amazes me that the Wholesale Assocation loves to talk about free markets and then lobby for and enact legislation that destroys natural competition within the market. This is a way for poorly run companies (and there are many of them) to protect themselves from losing their portfolios and, ergo, their jobs. The wineries suffer. The consumer suffers. The superfluous beneficoary of Prohibiltion-era laws is the victor. When is the State of Michigan going to concede it is run by its lobbyists?

  • Robin Miles Jackson July 17, 2011, 11:25 AM

    From having also worked on the supplier side, it is my understanding that a brand may be represented by as many as two distributor’s within a Michigan county. It would appear from the article and my friend Tim’s comment that the Legislature has carved out an onerous exemption with respect to Michigan wines only to the detriment of both the state’s wineries and its consumers.

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