’47 Cheval Blanc … to Your Doorstep!
Amazon.com, the world’s largest Internet retailer, recently
announced its intention to sell wine through its online marketplace, a venture
that is sure to bring good, cheap wine to the masses and establish the
Seattle-based company as one of the country’s largest wine retailers. This
fact is great news for oenophiles in Missouri,
as the states’ direct-shipment laws allow for any out-of-state retailer or
manufacturer to ship up to two cases of wine per month to any customer without
restriction (and more if a special excise license is procured, which it almost
certainly will be).
However, what if wine just seems a little too “fancy” for
your next adventure across the Lake of the Ozarks Community Bridge to a certain section of Camden County, and you don’t want to deal with the hassle of
visiting your neighborhood gas station/pharmacy/liquor store/grocery store to
pick up a few cans of Missouri’s official beverage? Can’t it just be delivered to your home?
Actually, no. Anheuser-Busch (along with every other brewery
and distillery in the state) cannot ship directly to consumers. The reason
for this happens to be the same reason that people in Kansas and Utah won’t be able to take advantage of Amazon’s most recent business venture: After
prohibition, almost all states in the union moved to what is now known as the
three-tier distribution system, composed of manufacturers, distributors, and
retailers of alcoholic beverages. This system was designed to ease the states
back into alcohol consumption, and to further regulate companies like A-B.
However, its separation has led to the notion that producers cannot sell
directly to consumers. In Kansas,
this means that wine can’t be delivered directly to your home. In Missouri (thanks to the
input of a remarkably powerful wine lobby) it can, but you still have to buy
your beer at the store, because the beer lobby is more concerned with other things. This isn’t a big deal if you want to get a Budweiser,
but if you’re in Kansas City and you want to sample the latest Schlafly Reserve, or you’re stuck in Saint Louis without a
special kind of Boulevard, you’re out of luck.
The only solution to this problem? Eliminate the three-tier
system and allow manufacturers to sell directly to customers. This will keep
prices down for consumers and allow for more freedom for direct-delivery
purchases, for both beer and for wine. I really doubt anyone at A-B would be
sad if they were able to sell direct, both because revenue would skyrocket and
because no midlevel jobs would be lost distributors of A-B products are all
monopolistic in their sale of the company’s products as is. Meanwhile, all of Missouri’s smaller
breweries would no doubt see an increase in business as their distribution
areas grew. How can this not be a good thing?