Thursday, November 30, 2017

Lawsuit Challenges Missouri's Restrictive Wine Sale and Shipping Laws

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 6:53 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY FLICKR/KEITA KUROKI

The Missouri law that bars out-of-state wine distributors from shipping directly to in-state customers is now the subject of a lawsuit.

A Florida wine store, its owner and a St. Louis wine enthusiast who counts himself a customer are the plaintiffs behind the suit, which was filed yesterday in federal court. They claim that the state's unwillingness to let the shop ship to customers in Missouri is unconstitutional — violations of the commerce clause and the privileges and immunities clause.

They are suing Governor Eric Greitens and Attorney General Josh Hawley.

In the suit, Michael Schlueter of St. Louis describes himself as a "regular purchaser and consumer of fine wine."

But if Schlueter wants to purchase fine wine from out-of-state retail stores — older vintages that are hard to come by, or newer wines that have sold out locally — state law bars him from doing so. That's more than an inconvenience; he says it's keeping him from the bottles he wants. "Most retailers who carry rare and unusual wine are located in California and New York, and Mr. Schlueter cannot afford the time and expense of traveling to out-of-state retailers to purchase a few bottles of rare wine and personally transport them home," the suit alleges.

And stores, too, are out of luck. Heath Cordes, the professional wine consultant who owns Magnum Wine and Tastings in Sarasota, alleges in the suit that he'd like to ship to customers like Schlueter. They visit his store on vacation, or while living in Florida after retirement — but can't have the shop ship wine to themselves or their friends.

The lawsuit is seeking an injunction barring the state from enforcing its laws — and requiring it to give out-of-state retailers the same shipping rights as those in-state.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com

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