After trying Breaker Bourbon and American Star Vodka in our tasting room, many people promptly grab their wallets and ask for a bottle. They figure that distilleries, like wineries and breweries, can sell glasses or bottles of their products in their tasting rooms. Wrong!
After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, states were given the authority to regulate the alcohol industry to prevent the same abuse of power that led to the passing of Prohibition in 1919. As a result, states created a three-tier distribution system where alcohol producers, including distilleries, can only sell their products to wholesale distributors, who in turn can only sell to retailers. Consumers can only get alcohol products from retailers except in states that have made exceptions for breweries and wineries. California is one such state–breweries and wineries are able to simultaneously be producers and retailers.
In California, distributors have lobbied to prevent distilleries from gaining the same privileges as breweries and wineries. However, these restrictions on distilleries are especially detrimental for small craft distilleries like Ascendant Spirits who could use extra revenue from selling in a tasting room to generate more products and expand. We believe that allowing distilleries to sell in their tasting rooms wouldn’t hurt distributors as they fear–consumers who would buy bottles in tasting rooms would more likely make their return purchases in their nearest retail store rather than in tasting rooms. Allowing tasting room purchases would sustain the attention of consumers and benefit distributors in the long run.
The Taste California petition, which advocates for distilleries to be able to sell products in their tasting room, is a win-win for distilleries, distributors, and retailers!