News

Pennsylvania: The Beverages Strike Back; Lawsuit Filed To Block Philly's Sugar Tax 

Monday, October 17, 2016 12:24:00 PM

Source: Yahoo News

Benzinga

September 15, 2016

 

A soda tax passed by the city of Philadelphia may be unconstitutional, at least according to the American Beverage Association (ABA).

 

The city of Philadelphia passed a soda tax that adds 1.5 cents per ounce to the cost of sugary drinks and will become effective on January 1, 2017.

 

According to Phillymag, the ABA along with local residents and businesses are arguing that the city has no right to tax soft drinks on top of the already existing state sales tax. The city argues that its tax is not classified as a sales tax because the distributor rather than the consumer is taxed.

 

Naturally, the ABA believes the tax imposed on the distributor will be passed on the consumer.

 

According to the lawsuit, the city "may not circumvent the Commonwealth's supreme taxation authority simply by changing its label or shifting the point at which the Tax is imposed."

 

The suit also argues that the city must tax similar products equally which it is not doing. Moreover, the city cannot tax products that are purchased through food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

 

The city plans on allocating the new tax revenue, estimated to be around $91 million a year, toward pre-k, community schools as well as parks and recreation centers.

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Retailer Wine Shipping: On The Litigation Front 

Monday, October 17, 2016 12:21:00 PM

Source: NAWR

September 14th, 2016

 

It is ironic that as the Internet wine retail market has heated up over the past decade, the one entity that has been actively discouraged from participating in that heat up is the American wine retailer. As a result of lobbying efforts to protect local retailers and wholesalers, wineries approving of bans on retailer direct shipment, and, importantly, judicial uncertainty, the most qualified sellers of wine in America, wine retailers, are largely banned from participating in the growing wine retail marketplace.

 

All this makes two separate federal lawsuits working their way through the courts important battles for wine lovers, free marketeers and wine retailers.

 

TEXAS PACKAGE STORE ASSOCIATION V. FINE WINES

With its recent Petition for Writ of Certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Texas Package Store Association (TPSA) is asking the Court to decide once and for all whether and how the 2005 Granholm v. Heald decision applies to both retailers and wholesalers. The TPSA attempted to convince the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Granholm decision explicitly protected state laws discriminating against wine wholesalers and retailers from review under the non discrimination principles of the dormant Commerce Clause as laid out in the 2005 SCOTUS opinion. The Fifth Circuit Court held the non-discrimination principle did, though only weekly, apply to wholesalers and retailers when it refused to dismantle a long-standing injunction against Texas from enforcing a multi year residency requirement before a retail license could be granted. This decision conflicts with decisions in both the Eighth and Second Circuits that both proclaim Granholm require that out of state wineries be treated equally with in-state wineries where wine shipping is concerned, but also that retailers and wholesalers had no such claim to fair treatment under the tenants of the Dormant Commerce Clause.

 

This case is important because if it is granted Certiorari by SCOTUS, the Court, in its review of the case, will have the optio to finally answer the question: Can states discriminate against out-of-state wine retailer shipping for the purposes of protecting in-state economic interests? On the other hand, if cert is granted the Court could decide to take a very narrow look at the case in question and not address retailer shipping. Either way, NAWR will be closely watch this case as will retailers and wholesalers across the country

 

LEBAMOFF V RAUNER

Only recently filed, Lebamoff v Rauner challenges Illinois blatantly discriminatory treatment of out of state wine retailers. Illinois allows in-state wine stores to ship wine directly to Illinois consumers, but bans out-of-state wine retailers from doing the same. The claim of discrimination and violations of the commerce clause are essentially the same as those that won at the federal district courts in Texas and Michigan, but lost in the Fifth Circuit and Second Circuit Courts of Appeal.

 

What's at stake? Certainly millions, if not billions, of dollars. While we have documentation of the size of the WINERY-to-Consumer shipping channel via the ShipCompliant Annual Winery Shipping Report ($2 billion annually), what we don't have is any documentation showing how much wine is currently being shipped via the RETAILER-to-Consumer shipping channel. However, given the persistence of retailers and the thirst for hard to find wines, imported wines, rare wines, Kosher wines, wine-of-the-month clubs and wine auctions, it is reasonable to assume that the RETAILER-to-Consumer shipping channel is at least half the size of the WINERY-to-Consumer Channel if not larger.

 

But this begs the question, if American consumers were not dissuaded by arcane, protectionist laws from buying wine via the Internet from retailers and having it shipped to them, how large would the Retailer-to-Consumer shipping channel be, particularly considering that retailers have far more experience selling online and marketing digitally than wineries do?

 

The National Association of Wine Retailers believes the Lebamoff case filed in Illinois is solid and well founded as a matter of Constitutional law and will support the plaintiffs in any way possible in their attempt to bring justice to the ossified, arcane and discriminatory Illinois alcohol regulatory system.

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Restaurant Groups Urge High Court To Review Tip Pool Rule 

Monday, October 17, 2016 12:19:00 PM

Source: Law360

By Braden Campbell

September 13, 2016

 

A handful of restaurant associations recently urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take up an appeal of a Ninth Circuit ruling that the U.S. Department of Labor can stop employers from tip pooling, saying that the rule hurts minority workers and that a circuit split on the agency's rulemaking puts restaurants in a costly bind.

 

The National Restaurant Association, the National Federation of Independent Business and other hospitality groups filed an amici curiae brief last week, piggybacking on Wynn Las Vegas' August petition for the high court to decide whether the DOL acted within its statutory authority when it barred restaurants from including kitchen staff in tip pools. A separate suit filed by the trade groups against the DOL was consolidated in the Wynn suit.

 

In their brief, the groups argued that the regulation disproportionately favors mostly white, female restaurant service staff by taking money out of the pockets of minority, male kitchen workers and that complying with the "unsettled" rule - which has been rejected by some courts and allowed by others - forces restaurants to choose between costly lawsuits or upending traditional industry pay practices, which is likewise expensive.

 

"The department's regulations are ill-conceived and backward," the trade groups said. "This regulatory frolic and detour presents an especially appropriate candidate for this court's timely intervention to prevent any further damage to the restaurant industry and the many jobs it creates in communities across the country."

 

Wynn's petition asks the court to settle a disagreement between the Ninth, Federal and Fourth circuits over whether the Fair Labor Standards Act allows the DOL to issue rules covering areas in which the empowering statute is silent, as was the case here.

 

The Ninth Circuit in February held in a published opinion on a suit by Wynn casino dealers that the DOL is within its rights to bar employers from using tip pools by expanding existing prohibitions to cover all restaurants. The decision reversed two rulings by district courts in separate cases that were consolidated in the appellate case - an Oregon federal court decision in the trade groups' case and a Nevada federal court decision in the Wynn case. A split Ninth Circuit panel declined last week to rehear the consolidated cases, with one panel member and nine other circuit members dissenting over perceived failures of the ruling.

 

The restaurant associations also took issue with the decision, writing in their brief that the rule has led to a wave of class action lawsuits against restaurants uncertain of the best way to comply, given the circuit split.

 

"The issue is not going away, and only the definitive guidance that this court can bring will resolve the matter," the associations said. "The only real questions are how much money litigants will have to spend on lawyers' fees and how much time the federal courts will have to devote to class actions involving this issue, in the meantime."

 

The groups also argued that the rule confers a "uniquely privileged status" for the majority white dining room staff by requiring all tips go their way while depriving more ethnically diverse kitchen workers - whom they claim are already paid worse than their service counterparts - of a share.

 

"The last thing that agencies of the federal government should be doing is building obstacles to African-American and Hispanic male workers achieving higher levels of income," the associations said. "Yet that is precisely what the department's regulations accomplish."

 

In an interview with Law360 on Tuesday, an attorney for the restaurant associations, Paul DeCamp of Jackson Lewis PC, called the issue one "of great importance to restaurants across the country" and urged the Supreme Court to provide some clarity.

 

"The Ninth Circuit, quite frankly, got this issue completely wrong," DeCamp said. "Ten judges in the Ninth Circuit agreed that the court's opinion botched this issue badly, and at this point, now only the Supreme Court can fix it."

 

On Monday, the restaurant groups asked the Ninth Circuit to stay the Labor Department's appeal of the underlying Oregon federal court decision in their suit, pending a decision on Wynn's petition in the consolidated case. The stay was granted on uesday.

 

Attorneys for the restaurant groups and representatives for the U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

 

Joseph Cesarz and Quy Ngoc Tang and the other casino dealers are represented by Leon Greenberg and Dana Sniegocki of Leon Greenberg PC.

 

The associations are represented by Angelo Amador of the National Restaurant Association and Paul DeCamp of Jackson Lewis PC.

 

The writ of certiorari is Wynn Las Vegas LLC and Steve Wynn v. Joseph Cesarz and Quy Ngoc Tang et al., case number 16-163, in the Supreme Court of the United States. The appeal circuit cases are Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association et al. v. U.S. Department of Labor, case number 13-35765, and Joseph Cesarz et al. v. Wynn Las Vegas LLC et al., case number 14-15243, both in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth C

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Underage Drinking & Smoking Continues To Decline 

Monday, October 17, 2016 12:17:00 PM

Source: Yahoo News

September 12, 2016

 

Underage drinking and smoking in the United States is still in a downtrend, according to a recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

 

A little more than 4 percent of teens between 12 to 17 years old declared having smoked a cigarette in the month previous to the survey, which was conducted in 2015. This figure compares to 27 percent of young adults aged 18 to 25.

 

More significantly, these figures imply a marked decline from the figures seen in 2002, when 13 percent of teenagers and 40 percent of young adults said they smoked in the month the preceded the survey.

 

Everyday young smokers are also less than in 2002, with only 20 percent of young adults smoking every day, versus 31.8 percent in 2002.

 

Numbers for alcohol usage among the 12-to-17 age group also fell, from 17.6 percent in 2002, to 9.6 percent in 2015.

 

This data suggests that public health initiatives to reduce underage substance consumption are working, according to Kana Enomoto, principal deputy administrator at the SAMHSA,.

 

"As cigarette smoking among those under 18 has fallen, the use of other nicotine products, including e-cigarettes, has taken a drastic leap. All of this is creating a new generation of Americans who are at risk of addiction," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said a few months ago.

 

The SAMHSA's report also looked into the use of illicit drugs, the misuse of psycho-therapeutic drugs, substance use disorders and mental health issues, among other subjects.

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OVERTIME PAY 

Monday, October 03, 2016 4:41:00 PM

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last night to delay adoption of pending overtime pay rules by six months, pushing back the start date to June 1.

The measure has yet to be taken up by the full Senate, and President Obama has already issued a statement promising to veto the legislation. Yet the vote last night was hailed as a victory for restaurants and other small businesses by such groups as the National Restaurant Association.

“We are grateful that Congress stood with small business and passed the Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools, and Nonprofits Act,” the NRA said in a statement. “We continue to work with key senators on both sides of the aisle to find a resolution in both houses.”

Hopes for a delay in the Senate were buoyed by the partisan vote in the House. The delay measure was passed nearly along party lines, 246-177. The Republican Party also controls the Senate.

The vote in the House came on the same day Congress overrode President Obama’s veto of a bill allowing U.S. citizens to sue Saudi Arabia for damages relating to 9/11. The two-thirds vote marked the first time Congress has overturned an Obama veto.

The new overtime rules, issued by the Department of Labor earlier this year, are scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1. The regulatory change doubles the threshold that determines which salaried employees would be entitled to time-and-a-half pay for work exceeding 40 hours per week. Anyone on salary who earns less than $47,476 on an annual basis would be eligible for the higher pay. The threshold is currently $23,660.

Twenty-one states recently joined forces to challenge the rules in court, arguing against the use of salary as the test of eligibility. 

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US Surgeon General urged not to penalise responsible drinkers 

Monday, October 03, 2016 4:29:00 PM

Source: the drinks business

by Patrick Schmitt

8th September, 2016

 

Key US drinks trade associations have united to express their concern about an upcoming report on alcohol misuse that targets responsible consumers rather than problem drinkers.

 

Figures such as Robert Koch, who is president of California's Wine Institute, and Kraig Naasz, who heads up the Distilled Spirits Council, have signed a letter this week to the US Surgeon General Vice Admiral Murthy urging him to "reject calls for the inclusion of unproven, population-based policy recommendations aimed at consumers in general rather than abusive drinkers."

 

The letter - which can be seen below ­- asks the Surgeon General "to consider offering the public an opportunity to comment on the report prior to its final release."

 

It also states, "Recommendations that penalize responsible consumers of alcohol have no place in a report of this nature."

 

In an article from the September issue of The Weekly Standard, Kevin Kosar observes that "neo-prohibitionist anxiety has begun to spread" from the UK to the US, helped by "alarmist" reporting by US newspapers such as The Washington Post.

 

He observes the march of the "no alcohol is safe" argument, but points out that this "ignores the fact that just about everything - even activities with obvious and abundant benefits - carries a risk or cost."

 

Indeed, he writes, "Responsible drinkers are not drags on society. On the contrary, drinkers tend to earn more than teetotalers and are twice as likely to exercise."

 

The letter from the US trade associations to the Surgeon General can be seen below:

 

Dear Vice Admiral Murthy,

 

As the national trade associations representing producers and importers of beer, wine and distilled spirits products sold in the United States, we are writing regarding your upcoming report on the health effects of drugs, both illicit or otherwise, as well as alcohol misuse. While the overwhelming majority of Americans consume alcohol lawfully and responsibly, we welcome your efforts to destigmatize treatment and recovery for those for whom alcohol consumption is a concern.

 

We appreciate your care in ensuring that you base any conclusions and recommendations on widely-accepted evidence endorsed by the scientific community with expertise in prevention and treatment. You have great resources in NIAAA and SAMHSA, which lead this country's research efforts on evidence-based ways to prevent and treat alcohol abuse. We hope you will look to those agencies for meaningful guidance and reject calls for the inclusion of unproven population-based policy recommendations aimed at consumers in general rather than abusive?drinkers. Recommendations that penalize responsible consumers of alcohol have no place in a report of this nature.

 

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to convey our concerns in greater detail and discuss the state of the science in this regard. We also urge you to consider offering the public an opportunity to comment on the report prior to its final

 

release. This will help ensure that the report provides targeted guidance to the American people that will be both helpful in terms of encouraging treatment and recovery and well-respected in terms of its scientific underpinnings.

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PD: Independent restaurants struggle against larger competitors 

Friday, September 09, 2016 4:23:00 PM

Small operators share strategies for success amid shrinking independent segment

 

Source: NRN

Fern Glazer

Aug 30, 2016

 

The United States may be the home of the American dream, but it's more difficult than ever to live that dream by operating an independent restaurant.

 

New data from market research firm The NPD Group reveals that despite the country's economic recovery, a staggering number of independent restaurants have closed in the last four years, while the number of chain restaurants continues to grow.

 

"Independents are declining across the board, with some of the steepest declines occurring in the largest markets," said NPD analyst Bonnie Riggs. "It's a tough market. They just have not been able to compete."

 

According to The NPD Group's ReCount database, which tracks commercial restaurant units across the U.S., there are 19,000 fewer independent restaurants today than there were in 2012. Compare that to chains, which have added 17,000 more locations in the last four years.

 

While the increased chain competition is part of what's behind the decline of independents, Riggs says there are other contributing factors.

 

"As more chains come on the scene, it's difficult for independents to keep up with marketing dollars," Riggs said. "[Also,] a lot of independent restaurants didn't stay relevant in terms of consumer needs."

 

Independent restaurants have been declining most in the Mountain region, which includes Oregon, Washington and California; the Mid Atlantic region, which includes New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey; and the West North Central region, which includes the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. In the year ended March 2016, independent unit counts fell 4 percent in each of these regions.

 

Other regions experiencing a notable decline in independent restaurants during the same period include the South Atlantic, New England and East North Central. Only three regions - East South Central, West South Central and Pacific - have managed to hold steady, with a decline of 1 percent or less in independent restaurants.

 

Among independents across the country, those that are doing best are quick-service restaurants in the bakery-snack and varied menu categories, followed by casual-dining restaurants in the seafood and ethnic categories.

 

Catching the American dream

 

Although the odds are stacked against independent restaurateurs in the U.S., many have found a formula to keep customers coming back, including the owners of Malai Kitchen, a Vietnamese and Thai casual-dining restaurant in Dallas, and Solomon & Kuff, a Caribbean restaurant and rum hall in New York City.

 

Malai Kitchen

 

Malai Kitchen, a casual-dining restaurant in Dallas that specializes in Vietnamese and Thai cuisines, along with house-made Sriracha and house-brewed Thai beer, stands out in a land of steak and potatoes.

 

"What we have here is something different, unique," said Yasmin Wages, who co-owns Malai Kitchen with her husband, executive chef Braden Wages. "We're showcasing something that's increasingly more popular."

 

But being different in a sea of sameness isn't the only thing that has helped this five-year-old eatery grow year-over-year sales by 12 to 15 percent.

 

"[We have] a top-line philosophy - it means invest, invest, invest and people will come," Wages said. "The moment you start skimping, you lose people's trust."

 

That investment strategy has translated into everything from using only the best quality ingredients (fresh, not frozen), to annually updating the dining room décor, to growing with customer needs by participating in new food delivery services.

 

Wages knows she can't compete with the fat marketing budgets of national restaurant chains, so she relies instead on serving top-quality food and training her staff to deliver an exceptional dining experience in order to generate positive word-of-mouth. The restaurant also generates buzz with the help of a public relations firm.

 

"It forces us to stay creative. To think of new ways to make us sound cool and neat," Wages said. "You have to constantly stay relevant or you will not succeed."

 

Solomon & Kuff

 

Partners Julie Grunberger and Karl Franz Williams know a thing or two about what it takes to keep an independent restaurant open in highly competitive New York City.

 

Before opening their 5,000-square-foot Caribbean restaurant and rum hall in late 2015, Williams, who has two other concepts open, and Grun had gone through the experience of having to close a restaurant.

 

"Competing in New York is tough," said Williams. "For independents, two things are critical: experience, [having] the right kind of experienced people, [and being] properly capitalized. If you don't have these two things, you're going to struggle."

 

The partners are both experienced and well capitalized, and the uniqueness and authenticity of their island concept - something the duo says chains simply can't do as well - is a big draw. But they know firsthand that it is tough to compete with the voice, scale and marketing dollars of large restaurant operators.

 

But they are finding their own way to get scale by leveraging their previous ownership experience and Williams' other restaurants to obtain more favorable deals with vendors, and even with their public relations firm. Additionally, in the past Williams has met scale challenges by banding together with other small business to form buying groups.

 

"Scale is necessary. All things that are challenges for independents are less challenging because of the other two restaurants," said Williams. "The small business myth . it's the American dream. Really, the American dream starts when you have scale."

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Illinois: Bill toughening oversight of wine shipping in Illinois signed into law 

Friday, September 02, 2016 8:38:00 AM

Source: Chicago Tribune

 

Greg Trotter

 

August 26, 2016

 

 

 

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law Friday that toughens oversight and enforcement of shipping wine into Illinois and transporting alcohol across state lines.

 

 

 

It's a win for Illinois alcohol wholesalers who lobbied for the passage of Senate Bill 2989, sponsored by state Sen. James Clayborne, D-East Saint Louis. The bill enhances penalties on those illegally shipping or transporting alcohol into the state. It also raises licensing fees across the board for manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers, and establishes more of an audit process for booze coming into the state.

 

 

 

But the bill had detractors, too, particularly from residents who purchased hard-to-find wine from out-of-state retailers. An online petition calling on Rauner to veto the bill garnered more than 1,500 supporters. Retailers aren't permitted to ship into Illinois, though some still do, but wineries are allowed to do so if licensed with the state. Now, retailers who take the risk could face felony charges.

 

 

 

Representatives of Wine and Spirits Distributors of Illinois, a trade group funded by the state's two largest wholesalers, Breakthru Beverage Group and Southern Wine & Spirits, have said the bill will bring in more revenue that will help the state's oversight of bootleggers and "bad actors" of e-commerce.

 

 

 

"(The bill) protects the health and safety of Illinois consumers by promoting compliance with state law. It also gives the Illinois Liquor Control Commission the resources it needs to prevent out-of-state suppliers from taking advantage of a loophole that allowed them to direct ship wine into Illinois without paying taxes," said Karin Lijana Matura, executive director of Wine and Spirits Distributors of Illinois, in a statement Friday.

 

 

 

Some opponents of the bill argued the opposite. By prohibiting out-of-state retailers from shipping into Illinois, the state is missing out on "millions of dollars" in tax revenue and licensing fees, said Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers, in an interview earlier this week.

 

 

 

Fourteen states currently allow out-of-state retailers to ship to their residents, said Wark, who said he expected the matter to eventually be settled in the courts.

ois: Bill toughening oversight of wine shipping in Illinois signed into law

 

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5 reasons restaurant growth will continue 

Monday, August 29, 2016 5:33:00 AM

Source: restaurant.org

August 24, 2016

Concerns of a "restaurant recession" are largely misplaced, and industry growth will likely continue in the months ahead, according to the NRA's Chief Economist Bruce Grindy.  His Economist's Notebook commentary and analysis appears regularly on Restaurant.org and Restaurant TrendMapper.

Recent concerns of a "restaurant recession" are largely misplaced.  Just as economists wouldn't say the overall economy was in a recession if just a few sectors were struggling, the same shouldn't be said about the restaurant industry based on the results of a handful of companies.

While same-store sales and customer traffic trends were certainly a mixed bag in recent months, that doesn't paint a complete picture on the health of the overall restaurant industry.  A better performance metric is total restaurant industry sales, which includes both existing restaurant sales as well as sales at new restaurants that enter the market.  By this measure, the restaurant industry remains on a positive trajectory.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, total eating and drinking place sales were up 6.0 percent on year-to-date basis through July 2016.  Adjusting for menu-price inflation, sales were up about 3.3 percent during the first seven months of the year.  This real growth rate is right in line with the average annual gains registered during the last five years, which suggests the restaurant industry expansion is maintaining its post-recession track.

That's not to say that consumers aren't somewhat unsettled, and a chunk of that uncertainly could likely be traced to the vitriol coming from the U.S. presidential campaign.  In fact, 31 percent of adults say they have become less confident about their personal spending as a result of the presidential campaign during the last few months, according to a new national survey conducted August 18-21 by ORC International for the National Restaurant Association.  Fourteen percent say they are more confident, while 55 percent say it hasn't impacted their personal spending.

However, thanks to the resilient American consumer, the overall restaurant industry is growing.  Here are five reasons why the expansion will continue in the months ahead: [click on charts to enlarge]

1. Labor Market Remains Healthy

The number-one driver of restaurant sales is a healthy labor market.  When people are employed, they have both the income to support spending as well as the daily need for the convenient food and beverage options that the restaurant industry provides.

While the current economic expansion has generally lacked explosiveness, it has been remarkably consistent, with gains of at least 2.1 million jobs each year since the end of the Great Recession.  Job growth is on a similar pace in 2016, including the addition of more than a half-million jobs during the last two months alone.

The restaurant industry has never contracted without a corresponding decline in the labor market, and there are currently no indications that job losses are on the horizon.

2. Wage Growth is Picking Up

Although wage growth has been noticeably stagnant during the current expansion, there are signs that it is finally starting to pick up.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average hourly earnings for all private sector employees rose 2.6 percent between July 2015 and July 2016.  This matched the strongest 12-month wage growth during the economic recovery, though it was still below the mid-three-percent gains posted before the recession.

Other factors should lead to stronger wage growth in the months ahead.  As the economy moves toward full employment and the jobless rate drops, businesses typically have to compete harder for talent in a shrinking labor pool.

A healthy labor market also gives workers the confidence and ability to leave one job for a higher paying job somewhere else.  According to BLS data, an average of 2.3 percent of private sector workers quit their jobs each month during the first half of 2016.  This represented the highest half-year quit rate since 2007.

If wages continue to rise and inflation remains modest as expected, consumers will have more disposable income to support additional discretionary spending.

3. Households Have Some Breathing Room

Household debt is rising steadily.  Total revolving credit balances are approaching $1 trillion for the first time since 2008, according to data from the Federal Reserve.  However, a key difference between now and eight years ago is the fact that households are much more equipped to handle this level of debt.

The Federal Reserve's Financial Obligations Ratio, which is the ratio of total required household debt payments (plus rent on primary residences, auto lease payments, insurance and property tax payments) to total disposable income, is nearly three points below 2008 levels and hovering near an all-time record low.

Households are also building up a financial cushion, with savings rates in recent months roughly double what they were just prior to the Great Recession.  Consumers also continue to benefit from relatively low gas prices, as well as grocery store prices that are on pace to decline for the first time since 1967.  These all put additional disposable income in the pockets of consumers.

Many consumers are also benefiting from rising wealth, which has a positive impact on spending.  House prices are trending higher, and all three major U.S. stock indices have closed at record highs during August.

4. Pent-up Demand Remains Elevated

Although overall sales are trending higher, consumers have yet to get their fill of restaurants.  According to a national survey conducted in April 2016 by ORC International for the National Restaurant Association, 45 percent of adults say they are not eating on the premises of restaurants as frequently as they would like.  Similarly, 46 percent of consumers say they are not purchasing take-out or delivery as often as they would like.

Not surprisingly, pent-up demand is higher among lower-income households, as six in 10 consumers in households with income below $35,000 say they would like to be using restaurants more frequently.  However, fully one in four adults living in households with income above $100,000 also say they are not patronizing restaurants as often as they would like.

As households with income above $100,000 are responsible for four in 10 dollars spent in restaurants, any degree of unfulfilled demand is an encouraging sign for the industry in the months ahead.

While there is always some degree of unfulfilled demand for restaurants, the current levels are well above historical norms.  In the mid-2000s, only about one in four adults said they weren't eating at restaurants as often as they would like - or just over half of the level that exists today.

5. Consumers Crave Experiences

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, consumers became very selective in their spending habits, which resulted in some sectors doing much better than others.  One of the reasons why the restaurant industry held up relatively well during a challenging economic environment has been a shift in consumers' spending habits toward experiences.

When given the choice of how they would spend an additional $100 if they had it, more than four in 10 adults say they would spend it on an experience such as a restaurant or other activity.  Fifty-eight percent say they would be more likely to purchase an item from a store.

Among consumers in households with income above $75,000, one-half say they would be more likely to spend their extra $100 on an experience.  

http://www.restaurant.org/News-Research/News/5-reasons-restaurant-growth-will-continue

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National Association Of Wine Retailers Asks Illinois Gov. Rauner Not To Make Felons Of Its Members  

Monday, August 29, 2016 5:31:00 AM

Source: Forbes

Thomas Pellechia

August 15, 2016

 

Under its banner, Free the Grapes, ShipCompliant recently reported that over $2 billion in wine was shipped direct (DTC) from wineries to consumers in 2015, a figure that represents roughly eight percent of the overall U.S. wine market-DTC sales from wineries are expected to continue to rise.

 

What would the numbers be if retailers across the country and on the Internet had the same DTC access that wineries have?

 

According to Tom Wark, executive director of the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR), the value of wine shipped directly to consumers from wine retailers is unknown, "Yet, we can say with great confidence that the concerted effort by wine distributors, wineries and some retailers to stamp out interstate commerce in wine by retailers has cost the wine industry in America billions of dollars."

 

DTC fermented in skirmishes for many years, then the issue culminated in 2005 when the Supreme Court ruled it is unconstitutional for a state to allow in-state wine producers direct access to in-state residents while denying direct access to out-of-state wine producers. The court told the states either allow direct shipping access to all wine producers or allow access to none. Hence, forty-four and not fifty states allow DTC.

 

The 2005 decision was narrow, applying only to wine producers. Until NAWR or some other organization or individual is successful at bringing the issue to the Supreme Court, the states enjoy carte blanche rule-making when it comes to DTC access to out-of-state and Internet retailers-fourteen states allow access, mostly with severe restrictions and extra fees on retailers.

 

Mr. Wark paints a strange picture that has emerged over this issue:

 

"Interestingly, wineries and importers have done little or nothing to push for laws allowing retailer to consumer shipping . In fact, winery associations such as the California Wine Institute and even consumer wine organizations like Free the Grapes have quickly given their consent when laws introduced allowing out-of-state shipments from both wineries and retailers are amended at the behest of wholesalers to strip retailer shipping out of the bill. It's as though wineries and importers think they are in competition with retailers when in fact retailers are wineries' and importers' best supporters. This makes wineries complicit in the billion dollar boondoggle that are restrictive retailer shipping laws."

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