ABL Statement Regarding Deregulation of the American Alcohol Industry in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis

March 23, 2020

BETHESDA, MD American Beverage Licensees (ABL) Executive Director John Bodnovich issued the following statement regarding deregulation of the American alcohol industry in response to the COVID-19 crisis:

“American Beverage Licensees (ABL) and its state retail association affiliates have been hard at work for alcohol retailers during the COVID-19 crisis.  We’ve been working with governors’ offices and state regulators to allow hospitality businesses to continue to serve their communities; talking to federal and state legislators about providing relief for local small businesses and their employees; and coordinating with nearly all national alcohol industry trade associations in an effort to preserve the hundreds of thousands of businesses, over 2 million jobs, $122 billion in economic impact and $27 billion in taxes the alcohol industry generates.

“Now is the time for an orderly, state-regulated alcohol system where package liquor stores are treated as essential businesses, bars and taverns have the ability to serve their local communities in a modified way and, just as importantly, that we all do whatever we can for bar and tavern employees during this generation-defining crisis.

“Yet as stunned Americans try to adapt their lives and protect their families and businesses, and while people are literally dying during the COVID-19 crisis, today the National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) issued a statement calling for blanket deregulation of interstate retail wine-shipping during this human tragedy, a crassly opportunistic attempt to advance its long-standing policy objectives during the fog of a health crisis.

“NAWR couches its statement as a righteous attack on wine and spirits wholesalers who had the audacity to call on governors to deem beer, wine and spirits retailers ‘essential businesses’ and urge states to take modest steps to allow limited and temporary pick-up and delivery options for bars, taverns and restaurants.  Apparently, respectfully suggesting a thoughtful and measured approach when it comes to retail alcohol regulations during this crisis is a grievous sin.

“Instead of putting aside ideological beliefs, NAWR instead chooses to put on display naked opportunism and disregard for public safety in the name of its free market prerogative.  If NAWR truly represented what most consumers recognize as wine shops, liquor stores, package stores and others who turn the key to open and close their Main Street business storefronts every day, perhaps they would better understand why it is wrong to take advantage of the chaos of a crisis to advance their political agenda.

“What we should all be doing right now is encouraging everyone to support their local bars, restaurants and taverns in a safe and responsible way.  These are our friends and neighbors and they need our support now more than ever.”