Washington: Washington Lawmaker Proposes Lower DUI Threshold 

Friday, February 17, 2017 5:33:00 PM
Source: Spokane Public Radio By DOUG NADVORNICK February 8th A Washington House committee heard testimony Tuesday on a bill that would lower the state's blood alcohol level threshold for drunken driving from .08 to .05. Shelly Baldwin from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission says officers around the state arrested 28,000 people for drunk driving last year. She said that figure is down from about 40,000 a few years ago. Snohomish County Democratic Rep. Jon Lovick, who was a Washington State Patrol trooper for three decades, is the bill's prime sponsor. He says, during his time as a trooper, he abolished special drunk driving emphasis patrols. "I pulled my crew together and I said, 'Lady and gentlemen, we will not have another drunk driving emphasis patrol.' And they looked at me as if I was, they thought I was crazy because they knew how aggressive I was in going after drunk drivers," Lovick said. "And I looked at all of them and I said, 'Every single minute of every single day that you are in your patrol cars we're going to be on emphasis patrol. We're going out to make a difference.'" One lawmaker wondered about the cost to the state if it lowers its blood alcohol rate. That drew this response from one of the bill's co-sponsors, Kennewick Republican Rep. Brad Klippert. He referred to his time serving as a police officer and to a tragic drunken driving case in his district. "A local deejay in the Tri-Cities area lost his entire family to a DUI driver, wife and all of his children," Klippert said. "I'm asking you, if that were you, would the first thought that came to your head be, 'how much is this costing the state?' Would that be the first concern you have or would it be the safety of the citizens of Washington state or your family." Seth Dawson from the Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention says he supports a lower blood alcohol limit, but urged the legislature to think about the mixed signals it's giving about drinking. He says many bills that allow people more opportunities to drink are approved every year.
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Illinois: Anheuser-Busch Illinois distributor sold (Updated) 

Monday, January 23, 2017 5:37:00 PM

Source: St. Louis Business Journal

Oct 26, 2016


An Illinois Anheuser-Busch distributor that has been in business for 69 years is being acquired by Hannibal, Missouri-based Golden Eagle Distributing.


Jacksonville, Illinois-based A. Gaudio & Sons was looking for a buyer willing to keep operations and employees in Jacksonsville, sales manager Mickey Marks told The Telegraph.


Terms of the deal, which is expected to close Nov. 18, were not disclosed.


"The decision to sell was a very painful and long, thought-out decision," Marks told the newspaper. "After 69 years of service to our community, the Gaudio family thought it was time to pass the keys to the warehouse to another family, and the Riesenbeck family is just a fantastic choice."


Michael Riesenbeck, president of Golden Eagle Distributing, said the company looked forward to continuing to serve the Jacksonville area.


"The Gaudios and Mickey Marks leave behind enormous shoes to fill," Riesenbeck said.

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Increased awareness about safe ride home programs needed: Poll 

Monday, January 23, 2017 5:34:00 PM

Source: Traffic Injury Research Foundation USA, Inc.

Oct 24, 2016


Key points:


Across the U.S., 41% of respondents reported familiarity with safe ride home programs.

Analyses revealed that among those drivers who were familiar with safe ride home programs, less than 10% reported using them always or almost always.

Young adults reported using both safe ride home programs and public transportation options more frequently than older age groups.

Among U.S. drivers, 49% reported that they had access to public transportation in their area, and 28% said they did not; 18% of respondents reported that public transportation was only available in urban areas and not in residential areas.

Nationally, only 7% of drivers who had access to public transportation reported that they always or almost always used it when they consumed alcohol and only 11% reported using it sometimes.

Several regional differences were observed in relation to availability and use of safe ride home programs, which suggests that some areas may need to do more to ensure drivers are aware of alternatives.

Among the 8% of respondents who reported drinking and driving when they thought they were over the illegal limit, the majority did so because they thought they were okay to drive (44%), or thought that they could drive carefully (12%).


A new Road Safety Monitor (RSM) poll conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation USA, Inc. (TIRF USA) and sponsored by Anheuser-Busch revealed low awareness of safe ride home programs among U.S. drivers. It also showed that a large proportion of drivers do not use safe ride home programs, even when they are available and U.S. drivers were aware of them. A concerning proportion of persons who reported driving while impaired did so because they believed they were okay to drive.


The public opinion poll conducted in October and November 2015 investigated U.S. driver opinions and behaviors in relation to impaired driving. Results were analyzed in accordance with the 10 regions of the country identified by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to gain insight into variations across the country. The online poll was based on a sample of 5,009 drivers, aged 21 years or older and conducted in partnership with TIRF in Canada.


"According to NHTSA, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities (involving a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or greater) accounted for 30 percent of total motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2014, corresponding to 9,943 lives lost." explains Tara Casanova Powell, Director of Research at TIRF USA. "Fatality data from 2015 showed that 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving fatalities, which is a 3.2 percent increase from 2014. Raising awareness about the availability of alternative transportation options to help drivers get home safely can help encourage greater use of these services.


In addition, the survey showed that safe ride home programs and public transportation were not consistently available across the U.S., and a proportion of drivers seeking these options were not aware of whether these programs were available in their area. These results indicate that awareness of these programs may be low, and more work is needed to increase driver awareness of these options when they are available. Regional differences were also observed in relation to availability and use, which suggests that more intensive efforts may be beneficial to ensure drivers know that services are available.


Of concern, in places where safe ride home programs and other alternatives were available, these options were not often used. Continued research is needed to better understand the reasons why some drivers specifically choose not to use alternative options when available, and what features may help to encourage increased use.


"Ride-sharing can be a useful tool to reduce impaired driving," says Dr. Ward Vanlaar, Chief Operating Officer at TIRF in Canada, "Additional research to explore effective strategies to deliver these programs, and promote their availability to drivers at critical moments can help ensure they are more frequently used and reduce crashes."


Survey results showed that most U.S. drivers were concerned about the consequences of impaired driving. Concern about injuring themselves or someone else was most often reported by drivers, particularly those who reported driving when they thought they were over the limit. As such, it may be useful to focus educational efforts to underscore the risks and consequences for drivers themselves as well as other road users.


Additionally, young adult drivers and respondents who had multiple tickets were found to be more concerned about the consequences of alcohol-impaired driving. Tailored awareness campaigns for these audiences that communicate the risks and alternatives to driving can be beneficial.


"It is clear that most U.S. drivers understand the overall concerns of driving while alcohol-impaired as evidenced by the 92 percent who reported not driving drunk. However, the majority of those who chose to drive while impaired made this decision because they thought they were capable of driving," says Casanova Powell. "This study revealed a common misperception among at least some drivers who believe they are capable of driving when alcohol-impaired."

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Clash Over Wine Merchant Shipping Laws Expands to Missouri and Michigan 

Monday, January 23, 2017 5:23:00 PM

In a Missouri courthouse and the Michigan statehouse, retailers are battling for the right to ship wine to customers across state lines

Ben O'Donnell
Posted: October 19, 2016

Lawyers who filed a suit last month in an Illinois federal court challenging a ban on wine sales by out-of-state retailers have launched another salvo, this time in Missouri. And in Michigan, legislators are considering a bill that would allow in-state shipping by retailers but explicitly ban sales by out-of-state stores. Supporters of allowing wine consumers to have access to more wines by legalizing retailer sales across state lines hope the fights will eventually lead to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Show-Me Suit

Missouri bans most retailer-to-consumer direct shipping, but it does allow "reciprocal" shipping—merchants in states that permit Missouri stores to sell to their residents can sell to Missourians. Florida does not allow out-of-state sales, and in the latest lawsuit, Sarasota Wine Market, LLC et al v. Nixon et al, filed Sept. 23, the owner of a Sarasota store called Magnum Wine and Tastings is challenging the restriction.

“Magnum Wine and Tastings has customers from all over the country, including many from Missouri, who visit while on vacation or have retired to Sarasota,” the complaint states. “Magnum Wine and Tastings obtains and sells many wines that cannot be obtained in retail stores in Missouri, including older vintage wines, limited-production allocated wines, private-label wines, and wines that have sold out in Missouri."

The suit also notes that Magnum, owned by Heath Cordes, has favorable access to wines auctioned at estate sales because of Florida's high population of retirees. The biggest beneficiaries to a new law, said plaintiff lawyer Robert Epstein, who is involved in both the Missouri and Illinois cases, would be Missouri residents "who are not situated right around Kansas City and St. Louis, where there are some decent wine shops."

St. Louis resident Michael Schlueter, a wine consumer, is also a plaintiff in the case. The defendants are Missouri's governor, attorney general and supervisor of Alcohol and Tobacco Control.

Like the Illinois complaint, the filing in Sarasota makes a two-pronged attack against the constitutionality of Missouri's shipping code: that it violates the dormant Commerce Clause by treating interstate sales, shipment and delivery of wine by retailers less favorably than intra-state sales, and that it violates the Privileges and Immunities Clause by denying Cordes the privilege to engage in his occupation in the state upon the same terms as Missouri citizens.

While the Sarasota suit has no court date yet, the case in Illinois may soon move to a pretrial hearing; Epstein and co-counsel James Alexander Tanford formally requested it be scheduled after Nov. 13.

Michigan Considers Changing the Rules

Epstein and Tanford were also lawyers in a Michigan case that became part of the landmark Granholm v. Heald Supreme Court decision that struck down discriminatory bans on direct shipping by wineries. And in 2008's Siesta Village Market, LLC et al v. Granholm et al, the pair successfully argued to a federal district court in Michigan that Granholm should apply to retailers as well.

The Michigan legislature responded by passing a law that any retailer could deliver in the state … so long as they used their own vehicles. "So if you're a Chicago retailer, if you want to get [a Michigan customer] wine, you have to use your own vehicle to deliver it," explained Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR). "Of course, that's not ever going to happen, right?"

On Sept. 20, state Sen. Peter MacGregor introduced Senate Bill 1088. According to an analysis by the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, the bill would amend the Michigan Liquor Control Code to allow a retailer with a specially designated merchant (SDM) license to use a common carrier, such as FedEx or UPS, to sell and deliver wine to a consumer in the state. But the bill deletes references to out-of-state retailers with similar licenses.

Epstein and Tanford recently submitted a letter to the Michigan senate, writing that they "have successfully sued Michigan twice over its discriminatory wine shipping laws that gave favorable treatment to in-state businesses …. Will we really have to sue the state a third time?"

“This is all to protect wholesalers," Wark told Wine Spectator. NAWR has also submitted a letter to the Michigan legislature opposing the bill. “We believe it's because they can't do anything more than deliver boxes in today's market, which has become expansive,” said Wark. “And they don't want to have to compete. They certainly know they can't provide Michigan consumers with access to the hundreds of thousands of wines available in the U.S. that many Michigan consumers desire but are not brought into the state by wholesalers."

The state's wholesalers support the bill. “Senate Bill 1088 will open up more options for consumers, allowing them to purchase the wines they love and have them shipped to their homes from retailers in Michigan," said Spencer Nevins, president of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association. "The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association opposes out-of-state retailers shipping wine into Michigan because the practice is inconsistent with the three-tier system and isn't subject to adequate regulation to ensure there is compliance with state laws."

The bill was approved by the senate's Committee on Regulatory Reform yesterday. A vote by the full senate is expected this week. “All the people that I've talked to told me that it was going to pass through the senate," said Wark. "But then it has to go through the house, and that's where we're going to fight it."

"If the bill is passed and becomes law, it's very, very likely to be challenged, and we would welcome such a challenge," said Wark. “If a third lawsuit was filed it would make it even more likely it would get to the Supreme Court."

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The grocery-restaurant price gap is worse than you think 

Monday, January 23, 2017 5:19:00 PM

Source: NRN

by Jonathan Maze in On the Margin

Oct 19, 2016


The restaurant-grocery inflation gap, widened again in September as my colleague Jon Springer wrote Tuesday. Over the past year, restaurant prices have increased 2.4 percent, according to federal data. Grocery prices have fallen 2.2 percent.


That's a 460-basis-point spread, and a big difference in the change in pricing by the two biggest industries that specialize in the sale of food to consumers. It's not difficult to imagine why consumers might be dining at home more often this year.


Yet even that understates the problem. Look at more detailed Consumer Price Index, or CPI, data, and the issue for restaurants is even clearer.


Specifically, meat prices have dropped a whopping 6.3 percent over the past year. Instead of a 460-basis-point gap, you have an 850-basis-point canyon.


That's a noticeable difference: A package of steaks that once cost $30 at the grocery store now costs $28.11. Consumers notice that difference, especially if they perceive the cost at their local restaurant to be more expensive.


Meat is a major commodity at a lot of restaurant chains. But it is also a central entrée for a lot of at-home meals, too. If the price of a person's choice of entrée is a lot cheaper now than it was a year ago, then it could dictate whether that person eats at home or goes out.


Consumers aren't going to eat out less because peanut butter is cheaper, or because bananas aren't as expensive. But they would choose to eat at home because they bought a package of steaks for a lower price.


Many issues could be influencing the decline in same-store sales. Restaurants have been too aggressive at building units, thus spreading too much traffic around. Independents are finally gaining traction. And consumers are staying home because of the election.


But more than anything else, price remains the biggest single reason for consumers to shift their spending, despite lower unemployment, rising wages and lower gas prices. One hardly needs to be in budget-cutting mode to look at saving a few bucks, and the unusual pricing gap is likely changing behavior enough to broadly move the sales needle.


This can't last forever, of course. Yet in the meantime, the sales slowdown brought in part by that pricing gap has cost numerous CEOs their jobs, and led to the bankruptcy of several restaurant chains this year.

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New Ordering System Streamlines Retail Purchases 

Monday, January 23, 2017 5:16:00 PM

SevenFifty Debuts in 30 States to Facilitate Retail Wine Orders



by Liza B. Zimmerman

October 10, 2016


Operators have long complained about the complex process of ordering wine. From dealing with multiple distributors and portfolios to difficult order interfaces the entire process has continued to be labor intensive.


The New York-based SevenFifty (750) launched several months ago and now currently works with 700 distributors representing roughly $20 billion in combined annual sales, according to a recent press release. "We're currently working with roughly 60 percent of all wine and spirit distributors. This includes many of the biggest in the country, as well as boutique distributors with small, curated portfolios," confirmed Aaron Sherman, CEO and co-founder of SevenFifty.


The ordering system has roughly 30,000 buyers in all major metropolitan areas, averaging more than one million total searches per month. Retailers can access the platform for free and need only show a liquor license verification to register. Distributors cover the cost of the system by paying a monthly rate to publish online portfolios, advertise tasting events and keep track of products brought to specific accounts, according to a company press release.


Sherman also said that ordering wine "has been a confusing and overwhelming process for years.... [as] currently, buyers are forced to send their orders through different emails, text messages, and phone calls - we wanted to create a better solution." He said the SevenFifty system seeks to simplify the "fragmented manner in which orders are currently communicated to sales reps by consolidating the process onto a single platform."


Retail Feedback


A handful of operators who I spoke to also confirmed that the platform makes ordering wine less complex. Using the system, said Meg McNeill, general manager and buyer for the Brooklyn-based Dandelion Wine, "is easier, more streamlined, and allows less room for error." She has used it since it launched to order from multiple distributors. "We work with over 85 distributors and we only have about 600 SKUs, so 750 helps streamline things immensely," she concluded.


"Going through everyone's price book would take so much time and when you're looking for a type of wine just going through books wouldn't show everything on the market," added Patrick Larson, the manager and buyer for Vinyl Wines on the Upper East Side of New York.


"It makes my job a lot easier in so many ways. One of the first I can remember is a bride coming to me asking for half bottles of Long Island white or Sparkling wine. I have no idea how I would track down such a special request without 750- perhaps calling every vineyard on the North Fork?" McNeill shared.


She added that the SevenFifty system is convenient for orders of all kinds, for instance if she knows that she wants "a Chablis on the shelf for less than $30, I can search for that, narrow it down to the distributors I already work with and generate a list to keep track. Or, at large portfolio tastings, rather than carry around a giant catalogue, I can make a list using 750 on my phone to then check later when I'm back at the store and then place an order with my rep right from the same platform."


She added that most of her key distributors are in the system and "My reps are as busy as I am, and using seven fifty means I don't have to text or email or call them every time I have a price question. I can look up the pricing structure of each of the wines I need to order and then send the list directly through the website to my rep. I've heard from my salespeople that it works great for them too because they don't have to look up every product code to place my orders, SevenFifty just sends them with the order."


CEO Sherman noted that SevenFifty provides comprehensive online listings of distributor portfolios and an ordering tool that allows for fast and easy re-ordering of existing products in inventory." What is more, the process is streamlined, he said, "by enabling the buyer to create orders and instructions that can be sent to their reps in a few clicks."


An Analyst's Perspective


Two of my most trusted wine business analysts see the benefits of using SevenFifty from both a retail, and a wholesale, perspective. Barbara Insel, president and CEO of the St. Helena-based Stonebridge Research said that she has been have been fascinated by Seven-Fifty for some time. "It was started by restaurant people in New York who understand what was needed to make their lives easier and the restaurant people I know seem to like it."


Basically using SevenFifty replaces the various ordering systems that each wholesaler has so "there is one standardized, uniform ordering site for each wholesaler who uses it. And in theory, all the relevant product information besides pricing can also be accessed through SevenFifty, replacing various brochures, sales order books, price posting volumes, etc," added Christian Miller, proprietor of the Berkeley-based Full Glass Research.


"For the retailer, this should make the basic act of ordering wine more efficient [fewer wholesale websites to access or distributors to call] and easier because the format is uniform. In theory, it would also make comparison shopping much easier for retailers, provided the search engine is comprehensive and easier to use. If a restaurateur is thinking that he or she needs a wine priced at a specific price, A site like SevenFifty can generate a list of candidates for easy comparison by price, type, source, etc."


"For wholesalers, it seems like a two-edged sword. On one hand, it may put downward pressure on prices by making price comparisons within categories [and between wholesalers] easier. And if retailers start to use it more, it could diminish the influence that larger sales forces have by virtue of more frequent calls on more retailers," he continued.


"If seven fifty actually replaces ordering directly from wholesalers for a majority of volume or retailers, there could be some cost savings for wholesalers in terms of managing their ordering websites and customer service centers," concluded Miller.


Tailoring the System


The online ordering platform is also an order management system where buyers can select products to re-order and allows users to apply filters and search functions---such as vendor, appellation, country, raw material, vintage--to create customer distribution orders, said Sherman. He added that the site is constantly updated to keep pace with brand moves and pricing.


As more facets of the wine business shift to computers there is a risk of reducing some of the essential human contact and tasting experiences that are important to building a great wine selection. However the retailers to whom I spoke said that use of 750 doesn't actually cut down on human interaction in the buying process.


"We taste all the time. In fact, it sometimes means that our tastings are more focused because I can research wines from individual portfolios ahead of appointments and request particular wines that we need. It means my reps don't have to be psychic all the time and guess randomly what might fit when there are particular holes to fill here," said McNeil.


System use "doesn't effect physical human interaction. Most ordering is done through emails and phone calls. By seeing a variety of wholesalers listed you find people you wouldn't necessarily have worked with and instead of being cold called you can do your research before reaching out," added Larson.


"I love being able to leverage technology to make my life and my job easier. A web interface that's cleanly designed, easy to navigate and chock-full of information at my fingertips at all hours of the day [or night] was welcome," said Jared C. Sadoian, bar manager at The Hawthorne restaurant in Boston.


He added that, "I never really understood my industry peers who call in orders during the day, leave voicemail orders, or worse, send a paragraph-length text message to their sales representative with their ordering needs. It's nearly impossible to track, easy for mistakes to be made, and puts you in a disadvantage if you have a lot to do during the day."


He added that one of his favorite 750 features is lists. "I can create and update a list of exactly the products I normally buy for, say, my current wine by the glass program," he shared. "Keeping track of past orders as well is a useful feature that helps me track what I've purchased and understand my own ordering patterns. Having products all under one, searchable system makes it easy to build an order ....and consolidates the ordering information."


It looks as though greater use of this type of ordering technology may continue to speed up and simplify the wine business for both retailers and distributors.

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Get ready: New I-9 form is set for January 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 12:52:00 PM

Get ready: New I-9 form is set for January

Restaurant and other employers will soon be required to use a revised version of the government’s I-9 form when hiring new employees.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, published its new version of the form Nov. 14. Beginning Jan. 22, 2017, all U.S. employers must start using it. Employers can use the current version, dated March 8, 2013, until Jan. 21. After that, they must use the form dated Nov. 14, 2016.

I-9 forms are used to verify an employee’s identity and eligibility to work in the United States.

The USCIS said the revised three-page form will be easier to complete on a computer. It also is designed to reduce confusion and will help employers avoid technical errors that could result in hefty fines. The changes include:

  • Prompts to ensure information is entered correctly. It will notify the user of any missing fields, dates inputted incorrectly and social security numbers that are missing a digit.

  • Improved naming convention. Employees now only need to provide “other last names used” rather than “all other names” used. This is expected to avoid possible discrimination issues and protect privacy of transgender and other individuals who have changed their first names.

  • A dedicated area for additional information. Employers currently provide this in the margins of the form.

    Other enhancements include:

  • Drop-down lists and calendars.

  • Embedded instructions that pop up when the cursor hovers over each field.

  • Instructions separate from the form. Employers are still required to present the instructions to employees completing the form.

  • Buttons that allow users to access instructions electronically, print the form, and clear the form to start over.

  • A QR code that’s generated once the form gets printed. This can streamline and facilitate auditor reviews.

    The USCIS said employers must remember that the revised I-9 form must still be printed out so employees and/or their preparers can sign them. They can be stored on- or off-site in a single format or combination of formats, such as paper, microfilm or microfiche, or electronically.

    Go to the USCIS website to learn more about the changes to the I-9 form.

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Wine Retailers Throw Down Gauntlet Against Direct-Shipping Restrictions 

Thursday, December 01, 2016 1:54:00 PM

New lawsuit in Illinois challenges the constitutionality of direct-shipping laws; plaintiffs hope to reach the Supreme Court

Ben O'Donnell
Posted: September 20, 2016

The book on modern direct-to-consumer wine-shipping law was written at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 with the Granholm v. Heal decision. Now, wine retailers are hoping to write their own chapter in the story. Earlier this month, lawyers filed a complaint in a federal court, arguing that an Illinois prohibition on retailer-to-consumer direct shipping is unconstitutional. The same firm is preparing a similar complaint in Missouri.

The Illinois suit, filed on Sept. 1, named Lebamoff Enterprises, Inc. et al v. Rauner et al, states that Irwin Berkley, a Chicago-area resident, wants to buy "wines that are sold-out in Illinois but are still available from retail stores in other states, older vintage wines and limited-production allocated wines" and have them shipped to his home from Cap n' Cork, a chain of Indiana stores owned by fellow plaintiff Lebamoff Enterprises, but cannot.

"We think that the principles of Granholm apply to retailers just as well," Robert Epstein, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, told Wine Spectator. "And we're going to test it."

While not a party to the suit, the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) hopes the case goes all the way up the judicial ladder. "We would relish the opportunity for a chance like this to get in front of the Supreme Court," Tom Wark, executive director of the NAWR, told Wine Spectator. "It would be a perfect case that's on point: Are retailers covered by Granholm?"

In Granholm, the court ruled that states could not block out-of-state wineries from shipping to local consumers if they allowed in-state wineries to do so, finding such laws discriminatory against interstate commerce. Currently, wineries can ship direct to consumers in 43 states, including Illinois and Missouri, compared with 27 in 2005.

States permitting out-of-state retailer shipping, however, have fallen from 18 to 14 since Granholm. While online shopping has made it easier for wine consumers to track down wines at out-of-state stores, state governments have increasingly banned buying from those stores.

"Generally when the Supreme Court speaks, it speaks in broad brushstrokes unless it specifically limits a decision to a very narrow finding, which in my opinion it did not [in Granholm]," said Epstein. (Both Epstein and another attorney for Lebamoff, James Alexander Tanford, originally argued one of the cases that helped bring Granholm up to the Supreme Court.)

Lebamoff comes just after Illinois tightened its prohibition on out-of-state wine retailers. On Aug. 26, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a new law stiffening penalties against out-of-state parties for shipping wine into the state without the necessary licenses. Even small-scale shipments of wine could be prosecuted as a Class 4 felony, which carries a potential one- to three-year prison sentence.

"A Class 4 felony is on par with stalking and aggravated assault," said Wark. "We think most people would agree that the act of sending a bottle of wine to somebody who wants to buy it probably doesn't rise to the same crime as aggravated assault."

Retailers blame lobbying by state wholesalers for the law, accusing them of seeking to quash competition. At a February 2015 meeting of the Illinois Liquor Control Commission (ILCC), a lawyer for the Wine and Spirits Distributors of Illinois (WSDI) suggested that, "incarceration of one or two illegal shippers would send a strong message to other shippers that Illinois is serious."

But wholesalers argue that the three-tier system of wineries, local wholesalers and local retailers is about protecting consumers. "This legislation protects the health and safety of Illinois consumers by promoting compliance with state law," WSDI executive director Karin Lijana Matura wrote in a statement. "It's about protecting Illinois consumers by abiding by the three-tier system that this industry was established on."

Berkley and Lebamoff co-owner Joseph Doust's complaint against Gov. Rauner, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and two heads of the ILCC makes two arguments for why prohibiting out-of-state retailer direct shipping while allowing it for in-state retailers is unconstitutional: the Constitution's Commerce Clause ("it deprives [plaintiffs] under color of law of their constitutional rights to engage in interstate commerce") and the Privileges and Immunities Clause ("it denies Joseph Doust to engage in his profession as a wine retailer on terms equivalent to those to that given to citizens of Illinois").

"If you read Granholm, I don't think there's a question in my mind what the Supreme Court meant in that case was that the states may not discriminate against out-of-state shippers," says Wark. "And retailers are shippers just like wineries are shippers."

In Granholm, however, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion, "The Twenty-first Amendment grants the States virtually complete control over whether to permit importation or sale of liquor and how to structure the liquor distribution system. We have previously recognized that the three-tier system itself is unquestionably legitimate." In the past, some courts have found that the language of Granholm only protects alcohol producers from interstate commerce discrimination, not merchants.

This is not the only case raising this issue in federal court. In August, Texas Package Stores Association, Inc., an advocacy group for wine and spirits stores in the state, submitted a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court in a similar case that has wended its way through Texas courts in various forms for a quarter-century. And Epstein and his colleagues are preparing a suit in Missouri that will make a similar argument against the constitutionality of Missouri's retailer shipping restrictions; the plaintiffs are a Florida specialty wine shop and a Missouri resident.

Legal experts believe it would take two years or more before Lebamoff found its way to the highest court, if it did. But the debate is gaining attention. Only a small fraction of the thousands of wines, both American and international, are legally available for purchase in all 50 states. Explaining his motivation, Epstein said, "I'm not only a wine lawyer, but I have been a wine writer and a collector and consumer. My ideal is to be able to have people that want to buy wine get it from whatever source they can legally in the United States."

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Illinois video gaming revenue continues to rise in fourth year; establishments and Rockford-area communities benefit 

Thursday, December 01, 2016 1:50:00 PM

By Susan Vela
Staff writer

Four years ago, bars, bowling alleys and other establishments switched on video gaming machines, unsure what to expect.

The amount of money played, machines used and establishments featuring the gambling equipment has gone up since Illinois made video gaming machines available to the public in September 2012.

As of Sept. 1, $9.2 billion had been played on 24,065 video gaming terminals at 5,615 establishments across the state in 2016, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

If gamblers keep putting their dollars into the machines at the same pace, the state is expected to break last year’s record of $11.4 billion played. That means more money for establishments with renovation dreams and for communities plugging holes in their financial accounts.

 “It’s the type of money that you prefer not to turn away if you don’t have to,” said Mike Gelatka, president of the Illinois Gaming Machine Operators Association.

Some local communities agree. They have come to appreciate their monthly video gaming checks.

“We would have to make some serious reductions in the general fund if we were to lose that video gaming money,” said Carrie Eklund, Rockford’s interim finance director.

Fourteen Rockford establishments had 65 video gaming terminals in 2012, when Rockford’s fleet of about 530 vehicles, some purchased in 1976, was in desperate need of repairs and replacement.

Rockford's monthly video gaming checks amounted to $32,709 in 2012 and grew to $1.3 million in 2015. The city has used the funds to replace 65 percent of its fleet, which includes snow equipment, fire trucks, ambulances and police cars.

The city ranks No. 2 — with about 440 terminals — in terminal possession, second only to Springfield’s 569, according to the Illinois Gaming Board.

The village of Machesney Park has fewer than 100 gaming terminals, which have generated about $125,000 this year. The village’s annual spending plan is about $7.5 million.

“I wouldn’t call it a dependency,” Village Administrator Tim Savage said of the revenue stream. “Sure, it’s helpful. It’s very helpful.”

Anita Bedell, executive director of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems, would like the pace of video gaming expansion to slow down.

“Each month, the gaming board continues to issue more gambling licenses,” Bedell said.

"It’s really a problem. (Communities) only get a nickel of every dollar that’s lost in the machine. That’s chump change compared to what some of these operators are getting. Those are lost dollars.”

Michelle Magee, co-owner of Logan’s Bar & Grill in Freeport, made sure her establishment had five machines in 2013.

“We’ve had them since we could get them,” she said. “They work out great. They help pay the bills when the months are slow.”

About 10 people would drop by Logan’s each day to put money into video gaming terminals in 2013. Now, up to 20 play the machines during the lunch hour and about 40 play during the dinner hour.

She has been able to use the bar’s share of the revenue to remodel a banquet facility and build a billiards room. This winter, they’ll remove the overhang over the bar to install six flat-screen televisions for big sporting events like the Super Bowl.

Jay Gesner has four establishments with video gaming terminals in the Rockford region. Gesner, president of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, expects gaming revenue to remain steady.

“I don’t know why that would change unless there are other avenues for people to gamble,” he said. “It’s not only the city that’s making money; it’s local business people.”

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Why alcohol has always played a role in human civilization 

Friday, October 21, 2016 4:45:00 PM

Source: Business Insider

Kevin Loria

September 21st


At the end of a long day, there's often nothing more satisfying than sitting down to have a drink with a few friends. It's a way to kick off some steam, to talk through the things that have been rattling around your mind, a moment to breathe and just be in the world.


Drinking culture has long existed around the globe, with different civilizations all developing versions of beer and wine, in many cases, elevating these beverages to to the level of a sacrament.


Yet it's true that excessive drinking is clearly unhealthy, and researchers have even questioned whether the claims for health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption are overstated. But some form of drinking, especially in a social or celebratory sense, seems to be an intrinsic part of human culture.


So why do we create these rituals around alcohol if it isn't so good for us in the first place?


If you ask Patrick McGovern, Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, the answer is simple. "We were born to drink," McGovern recently told National Geographic, in a brief but fascinating interview examining the human connection with alcohol.


Humans have always been drawn towards fermented fluids, according to this theory. They're packed with calories - vital energy - and at many times in history they've been safer to drink than potentially contaminated water. Plus, of course, they have that inebriating effect that takes us to a different plane.


McGovern, sometimes referred to as the "Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages," has a stake in the matter. He likes drinking himself and works with Dogfish Head Brewery to recreate ancient beer recipes, like the honey-rich Midas Touch, developed from ingredients found in the 2,700-year-old tomb of King Midas (it's tasty). But he's also expressing an idea that many other anthropologists and archaeologists agree with: Fermented beverages played a critical role in spurring us to set up the communities that became civilizations in the first place.


We domesticated grains so that we could mash them up and let them transform into intoxicating liquids that would bring us together. According to this argument, beers came before breads.


"As humans came out of Africa, they developed these [drinks] from what they grew," McGovern tells Nat Geo. "In the Middle East, it was barley and wheat. In China, rice and sorghum. Alcohol is central to human culture and biology because we were probably drinking fermented beverages from the beginning."


Excessive alcohol consumption is a serious health issue that can't be glossed over - it's responsible for numerous deaths and many shortened lives, according to the CDC.


But if you safely can and want to have drink or two with your friends, you can think of it as a human cultural ritual, a way of engaging with your prehistoric ancestors. Cheers.

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