O P I N I O N
Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
On February 7 members of the New Hampshire Senate Commerce committee will vote to determine whether to approve a ban on wine shipments to New Hampshire consumers from out-of-state wine retailers. Senate Bill 353 (Sen. Innis) would strip New Hampshire consumers of the right to receive shipments from out-of-state wine retailers, wine auction houses and wine-of-the-month clubs—a right they have possessed for many years.
The bill originated at the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica stated at a January 16 hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee that the purpose of the bill was to protect New Hampshire retailers from competition. Mollica went on to erroneously state to committee members that consumers “won’t notice at all” the new restriction on their right to receive shipments from out-of-state wine retailers.
Senate Bill 353 is an anti-competitive and anti-consumer bill that would, contrary to Chairman Mollica’s testimony, hugely impact New Hampshire wine lovers. New Hampshire consumers currently source wines they can’t find locally from more than 80 wine stores and auction houses across the country. This bill will completely shut them off from receiving those wines.
According the New Hampshire Liquor Commission’s own fiscal note on the bill, the state would lose over $400,000 in fees and tax revenue if SB 353 is passed.
The most remarkable thing about this bill is that it is trying to fix a problem that does not exist. New Hampshire residents don’t purchase wines from out-of-state sources and pay the heaving shipping costs if they can find what they want locally. Consumers in the Granite State always look for the wines they want locally first and if they can’t access them, then they look outside the state. That’s not a lost sale for the state of New Hampshire, but rather better choice for consumers and additional tax revenue for the state it otherwise would not have received.
New Hampshire consumers who want to retain their choice in wine are urged to contact members of the Senate Commerce Committee and ask them to oppose SB 353. The National Association of Wine Retailers and WineFreedom.org oppose SB 353.
Tom Wark is a wine consumer advocate and Executive Director of the National Association of Wine Retailers since 2007.