The California Artisanal Distillers Guild urged the California legislature to pass SB 620, a new bill to make direct-to-consumer (DtC) shipping of distilled spirits permanent— an advantage wineries have enjoyed in the state for more than three decades.
“Making direct-to-consumer shipping of spirits here in California a permanent option for consumers is a safe and customer-focused way of increasing convenience and supporting local distilleries,” said Cris Steller, executive director of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild and owner of Dry Diggings Distillery, in a press release. “Direct-to-consumer shipping of wine has already existed in the state for more than three decades, and spirits consumers should be afforded the same opportunity. By working with our distributor and retail partners, the distilling community can expand consumer convenience, build upon the important role the three-tier system plays, and responsibly implement direct-to-consumer shipping in California. This is simply the consumer-driven response to the new reality of our socially distanced economy.”
SB 620 was introduced by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica).
“This simple, commonsense measure will help bring parity in the alcohol industry,” said Allen. “Allowing distilled spirits and beer manufacturers to ship their products directly to consumers, as is already allowed for wine, will support affected businesses that have struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Under an executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, California distillers have been able to ship direct-to-consumer during the pandemic as a temporary economic relief measure. This move is said to have saved many distilleries from permanent closure.
“Wineries have been shipping their products to Californians for 35-years, but distillers never could,” said Ryan Friesen, vice president of the California Artisanal Distillers Guild and head distiller at Blinking Owl Distillery. “Under new temporary COVID relief measures, distillers have finally been able to ship their products directly to consumers, saving many businesses from closing their doors permanently during this pandemic. Thanks to the consumer-driven desire for a safe and socially distanced way of purchasing spirits, many California distilleries have been able to weather the COVID storm. Distillers now seek to make this shipping privilege permanent after a year of safely and conscientiously demonstrating the value and need for this ability.”
Both Dry Diggings Distillery and Blinking Owl Distillery were forced to close their tasting rooms for months and suspended tours. They each shifted operations during the pandemic to provide hand sanitizer to their communities.
“Permanently allowing direct-to-consumer shipping in California will create a more convenient marketplace for adult consumers and provide much-needed support to craft distillers facing financial hardship from the closure of tasting rooms and tours due to COVID-19,” said Adam Smith, vice president of state government relations at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. “Wine producers have successfully and responsibly shipped their products directly to consumers for more than three decades in the state, and distillers should have the same market access. Further, the world of commerce is rapidly changing – especially in light of the pandemic – and the market must adapt to meet consumer demand. We stand with California’s distillers and urge the legislature to make direct-to-consumer shipping permanent in the state.”
Direct-to-consumer shipping has, will and should continue to serve as an additional market access channel to the traditional three-tier system of alcohol beverage distribution. The spirits industry is committed to responsibility and supports measures in the legislation to ensure products are delivered to adults of legal purchase age. There are well-established and appropriate responsibility measures in place to restrict minors from illegally accessing beverage alcohol through direct shipment.