Study task force aims to legalize direct wine shipment in Alabama

Lawmakers discuss shipping wine to Ala.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A person can’t legally ship wine directly to their house in Alabama. However, a task force to study the direct shipment of wine met Tuesday with the goal to find a way to legalize it.

Last session there were at least seven bills dealing with the direct shipment of wine that failed, according to Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Birmingham.

“There was a lot of confusion over what we needed to pass or what was the right thing to pass,” said Waggoner. “A lot of those bills overlapped as far as shipment of wine.”

The task force’s goal is to come to a consensus on legislation to legalize it. The group is made up of several lawmakers, businesses, and the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

Waggoner said last session there were disagreements over how many cases someone could order and the effects shipping wine in from out of state could have on the state’s general fund budget.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions we need to delve into and work out,” he said.

The ABC board said they support legalizing direct shipment but want to make sure the wine is taxed. ABC Board Government Relations Manager Dean Argo brought up concerns of people under 21 having it shipped.

“What we totally agree with is making sure there are safeguards in place that whoever is making the order, whoever receives the order has to show some sort of identification that they are of legal drinking age and that they paid whatever tax was necessary,” Argo said.

Bob Crawford is the president of United-Johnson Brothers of Alabama, which is one of the largest distributors in the state. They distribute nearly three million cases of wine each year to bars, grocery stores and restaurants with valid ABC licenses. Crawford said the company has mixed feelings on direct wine shipments.

“We want to make sure that it is fair and equitable to everyone in the state. We’re very highly regulated by the ABC right now with license fees and as a responsible vendor,” said Crawford. “We would like to see that it is treated similarly to the way that wines and spirits are currently done.”

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, got a bill out of the House during the 2019 session that would have allowed an already licensed wine manufacturer to get a wine direct shipper permit. Collins serves on the task force and said she wants to make sure small businesses are protected.

Jessica Harrison is a manager at Derk’s Filet & Vine. They understand the convenience of direct wine shipment but are concerned for local jobs.

“From a business standpoint I’m afraid I won’t support it, just because I see a high probability of it cutting into local jobs, profits and just being able to see our customers that one on one interaction with our customers is what we really enjoy,” Harrison said.

Harrison also questions how the wine would be kept in good condition while sitting on a front porch in Alabama heat.

The resolution said the task force needs to submit a report by December of 2020. However, Waggoner said he would like to have an agreed upon piece of legislation by the upcoming legislative session at the beginning of 2020.

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