Monday, February 14, 2011

Dopey Case Law Still Gets Enforced...Reluctantly

A friend of the blog sent this back in September -- I was really busy and didn't read it at the time -- and I just stumbled across it in my Inbox, unread. It's an e-mail he got from a Philly-area distributor (that's a beer store for you out-of-staters) about how they got a visit from the LCB (or more probably the BLCE, but I'm not sure) about...selling mixed cases. That's right: not only is it illegal to sell less than a case at a distributor's, they are forbidden by law to sell anything but whole, unmixed, unopened cases. Even if that's what the customers all want. Don't ask me why, I've no idea.

So when these guys got ratted out, and busted...well, they had a crazy response to this crazy law. Read on...

Dear Fellow beerlovers,
In case you haven't heard...we've had a really interesting week! But not in a good way. Last week an LCB officer came into our store. My editorial is below.

BUSTED!!!!A Letter to our loyal customers:
Our competition is so scared of us, that this establishment (not a beer distributor) located in close proximity to our humble store, lodged a complaint with the Liquor Control Board of Pennsylvania, and this "establishment" complained that we mix our own variety pack cases, which is strictly prohibited by the LCBs now arcane laws that fail to keep up with consumers tastes and the times.

The agent from the LCB was extremely courteous, and stated that he really didn't want to bust us or he wouldn't even have come in to check, if weren't for an "establishment" that registered the complaint against us.

[Name of distributor here] believes this is a giant step back for not just us, but the whole industry and it's consumers. We know that we were not the only store engaging in this behavior. The more distributors that do this, the more it becomes accepted and eventually would be written into law.  Now, the LCB will undoubtedly go on the offensive and start checking other places for this "illegal" behavior.
The consumer is truly the loser today.
All we can really do now is go underground, like in the Prohibition days, so if you'd like to get one of our latest Oktober/Pumpkin Variety Packs, please print this email and just tell me your name and state that you are not from the LCB. Yes, it's stupid, but if you have a better idea, I'm all ears. Great beer is a right, not a privilege and we want to be the ones to spread the good word (and taste)!
Of course, I wouldn't want to encourage anyone to break the law, is a rather direct solution!


Anonymous said...

I'm always torn when I read these types of stories. On one hand I agree it's a stupid rule and limits choice through financial constraints, most of us don't have an unlimited budget to buy 24 cases of beer vs. 24 seperate beer. But at the same time it puts a distributor that is willing to break the law at an unfair advantage. I assume you wouldn't post this for a distributor knowingly selling to underagers as long as they are 18 since the 21 age is a silly law as well. The focus needs to be on changing the law (which for the most part you do) and not ridiculing the enforcement of laws.

Lew Bryson said...

Not the same thing, IMO. This is a law with no reasonable basis. You can at least make a case for the 21 LDA; I may not agree with it, but at least I get it. I would not encourage anyone to serve underage; I have told both my kids that although I am in favor of the law being changed, if either of them break it and get caught, they're on their own.

But the case law? WHY? Are there any good reasons, particularly for the part of the case law that says you're not allowed to mix cases? No. It's a laughingstock, a fossil, and it needs to go away. I feel exactly the same way about the beer registration laws. In all the testimony at last year's hearing, it was clear that no one knew why we had them; every reason they brought up was fallacious. I absolutely ridicule the enforcement of registration laws.

Breaking that part of the case law would be civil disobedience, a very fine American tradition. I understand what you're saying, and I would meet that by saying that if every distributor offered mixed cases, a test case could go to court. Who would show up to defend the part of the case law that forbids mixed cases? This is one way laws get changed.

Anonymous said...

The only reason I can see for the case law is that it makes life easier for distributors for both stocking and inventory. Not really my problem and it's certainly not consumer friendly. I do think now that grocery stores and some (one?) convenience stores are starting to sell singles and 6 packs the MDA is "suddenly" going to be able to find some legislative support to make changes that they "couldn't" before.

Whether or not you can make a case for a law being broken doesn't mean that it shouldn't be enforced when it's broken. It just makes for a level playing field with the business's that don't/won't break it.

I hope to hell the case law goes away soon, but to be honest I have more of an issue with bars and distributors being able to anonymously tell on their competition, than I do with the laws being enforced.


Lew Bryson said...

Right with you on that last one; it's clearly being abused, and has been for years.