Circuit Revives Portion of Indiana Wine Regulations

     CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit reinstated an Indiana wine regulation requiring residents to first make face-to-face contact with a wine merchant before they can place orders over the phone or online.

     The ruling reverses a federal judge’s decision to toss the face-to-face requirement, meant to make it more difficult for minors to buy wine.
     Oenophiles fighting for easier access to wine from small, out-of-state vineyards challenged the face-to-face requirement and Indiana’s rule that vintners cannot act as their own wholesalers, claiming the regulations unfairly burdened out-of-state sellers.
     Judge Easterbrook affirmed rejection of the wholesale clause, saying it was neutral only in language, but not in practical effect.
     “The wholesale clause protects Indiana’s wholesalers at the expense of Indiana’s consumers and out-of-state wineries,” Easterbrook wrote.
     The face-to-face requirement, however, does not overly burden sellers and it makes it harder for minors to get wine, even if some determined underage buyers will find ways around it.
     “So both the marginal cost and the marginal benefit of Indiana’s face-to-face system may be modest,” the court concluded. “That is not enough to declare a law unconstitutional – not when the effect on interstate commerce is negligible.”

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