Indiana Wine Seller Disputes Michigan Shipping Ban

DETROIT (CN) – Three wine-loving Michiganders and an Indiana wine retailer filed a federal lawsuit Friday against Michigan officials, challenging a law that prohibits out-of-state retailers from sending wine to Wolverine State consumers.

Lebamoff Enterprises says it maintains an online site and ships wine to customers but is unable to obtain a retail license under Michigan law.

The company’s lawsuit – filed against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Andrew Deloney, head of the Michigan Liquor Control Commission – claims the state law is unconstitutional because it restricts interstate commerce and violates the U.S. Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause.

The law – based on Senate Bill 1088, which Snyder approved Jan. 9 – allegedly prevents Michigan consumers from purchasing wine that may be rare, sold out of state, or exclusively available through auction. It specifically prohibits out-of-state retailers from shipping wine directly to consumers.

According to the complaint filed in Detroit federal court, Joseph Doust, wine manager for Lebanmoff Enterprises, has personal relationships with his clients and consults with them about special wine purchases. But Doust says he is unable to provide those services for wine connoisseurs who have moved to Michigan because of the state’s law.

“The laws of the State of Michigan treat interstate sales, shipment and delivery of wine by retailers differently and less favorably than intra-state sales, shipment and delivery of wine,” the complaint states. “This statutory scheme discriminates against out-of-state wine retailers and provides economic advantages and protection to wine retailers in Michigan.”

Lebanmoff Enterprises does not dispute any taxes or labeling for its wine and pledges to adhere to all applicable laws regarding those regulations.

The company seeks a court order that the Michigan law at issue is unconstitutional. It is represented by Robert Epstein of Epstein Cohen in Indianapolis.

In addition to Doust and Lebanmoff Enterprises, three Michigan consumers – Jack Stride, Jack Schulz and Richard Donovan – are also named as plaintiffs. Stride, Schulz and Donovan are all regular purchasers of fine wine, according to the complaint, and would like to buy from out-of-state retailers.

A weekend call to the governor’s office and an email to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission requesting comment were not returned by Monday morning.