Brooklyn Law Review


Thanks to a surge of new companies that facilitate home delivery, it has become increasingly common for consumers to make purchases online. In the case of alcohol sales, however, convenience cannot be the only consideration. New York (and a majority of other states) regulates the distribution of alcoholic beverages through a three-tier licensing system of producers, wholesalers, and retailers. The question that then arises is whether the non-licensed, third-party entities that work with licensees in a variety of ways, including by providing retail licensees with a platform for making Internet sales, fit into the regulatory scheme. While consumer demand has evolved to insist on this kind of buying experience, the law remains a frozen reflection of the Prohibition-era glorification of temperance. Adding to the mix of interests at stake, the established brick-and-mortar retailer community has long had to comply with strict regulation and has put pressure on regulators to level the playing field. In adjudicating the legality of some of these third-party entities through declaratory judgments, the New York State Liquor Authority has both asserted guidelines for compliance and applied them inconsistently. It is incumbent upon the state to respond to the fundamental shift in consumer behavior and create regulatory predictability. This note proposes the creation of a minimally burdensome permit for third-party providers as a way forward that best addresses the concerns of all affected parties.