State Senate tables bill to limit wine shipments to people from out-of-state retailers

Monitor Staff
Friday, February 16, 2018

It looks as if lawmakers won’t limit some out-of-state stores from shipping wine into New Hampshire.

A bill that would have removed the word “retailer” from the list of out-of-state groups that can get licenses to directly ship wine into New Hampshire was tabled Thursday by the state Senate, with a recommendation to kill it. The bill can still be resurrected, but it would be difficult.

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission backed the law, saying it is aimed at “brick-and-mortar” sellers in other states who compete with state liquor stores and other stores selling wine. It would not have affected wineries or wine clubs that ship directly to customers in the state. 

In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee last month, Joseph Mollica, chairman of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission said the bill would affect “about 81” of 1,174 institutions that have the licenses. Those account for about one-quarter of the annual $11.3 million of “direct ship” sales in the state.

Mollica said the move would “protect our retailers and tax structure.”

Opponents, however, described the bill as an unnecessary move by the Liquor Commission to protect itself from fair competition that would raise prices and limit options for customers.

The National Association of Wine Retailers lobbied strongly against the bill.

New Hampshire is one of 11 states that allow shipments into or out of the state.

Selling wine through the mail across state lines has a long, contentious history, partly because many states, including New Hampshire, get income from liquor taxes. Cross-border shipments only became legal in 2005, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 against laws in New York and Michigan that prevented shipments directly to consumers from out-of-state wineries. 

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek)