one who has worked in the wine and spirits business for the over two decades,
I continue to be fascinated, surprised and perplexed by the myriad of arcane
and seemingly arbitrary laws that have found their way into the books since
Prohibition's repeal almost eighty years ago.
spite of the repeal, we still live in an effectively prohibitionist society, one
where alcohol production, distribution and consumption is unequivocally illegal
unless otherwise permitted by law.
the loss of excise tax revenue and the rise of organized crime finally
persuaded the federal government to abandon its failed experiment in 1933, regulation
was left largely up to the state governments, most of whom had never had the
resources to enforce Prohibition anyway.
resulting patchwork of contradictory and confusing alcohol laws keep the lawyers and
lobbyists busy to this day, particularly in the areas of shipping and distribution. For some unexplained reason, the national and local
distribution of alcohol continues to be monopolized by a government-enforced
three-tiered system of producer, wholesaler and retailer.
means that consumers are limited in their choices, and interstate commerce is
level of regulation wouldn't be tolerated in any other business, but powerful lobbies
with a commercial interest have seen to it that the system is here to stay,
fair or not. Just try ordering a bottle directly from your favorite California
winery, and you'll find out how much grip the wholesalers' lobby has on your
ability to buy alcohol freely.
more immediate example of Prohibition's lingering influence is the
temperance-era rule that prohibits the sale of alcohol on Sunday. In the 1970s,
you could only sell booze on the Lord's Day if you happened to own a motor
speedway not less than 2 ½ miles around (It's true, really!). Today, you
can drink at a restaurant and drive home, but you can't buy a drink in a store
and take it home with you, which is a far safer thing to do. Sensible, right?
spite of the obvious failure of Prohibition, there are still those who believe
in it today. Witness our absurdly expensive and futile war on marijuana. It
should be obvious by now that one cannot successfully legislate one's own
personal morality, but successive zealots persist in trying.
this subject is of interest (and if you enjoy the irony of discussing
Prohibition over a cocktail or two), then I encourage you to attend one of the
Following the cocktail conversations, all participants are invited to engage in
more dialogue at a post-event reception. To learn more about the featured
speakers (including our very own David Hoppe) and to apply for tickets, visit