MAIL-ORDER BOOZE TARGETED.
Glen Parker waited three years on a winery mailing list before he got a rare bottle of Napa Valley chardonnay shipped to his Florida home. His wait for the next bottle could be longer.
Florida is the latest state to make the direct shipment of alcohol - a $1 billion business nationwide - a felony.
Parker calls it ``rather silly for a state that is the principal conduit through which cocaine and other drugs are imported into our country. You'd think they'd have better things to do with their law enforcement,'' says the Boca Raton magazine publisher.
Vintage wineries and beer-of-the-month clubs, in fact, argue the felony laws do nothing but protect powerful wholesalers worried about losing profits and their monopoly on alcohol distribution.
But supporters of the laws say mail-order alcohol encourages underage drinking and cheats states out of millions in sales and excise taxes.
It also allows companies to skirt dry laws that govern many parts of the country. Half of the counties in Texas, for example, are dry. In Kentucky, liquor sales are outlawed in 70 of 120 counties.
The admonition was echoed in recent months by Georgia and Florida: Ship wine, do time. Following their lead, more than a dozen other states have considered making it a felony.
The new laws have their greatest impact on small companies that depend on mail and Internet orders to enhance business. But the biggest losers are consumers, who end up paying more for pricey rare wines and obscure brews - if they can find them, said Bill MacIver of Matanzas Creek winery in Santa Rosa.
``This whole thing is retarding the business for everybody, it's cheating the consumer,'' MacIver said.
The laws have prompted protests by dozens of California wineries, including a threatened boycott last month of Florida orange juice.
Dave Dickerson of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America said many who back felony laws do so out of principle.
He pointed out that residents of the ``dry'' Moore County, Tenn., home of the Jack Daniel's distillery, aren't allowed to sell whiskey they make.
``And if they don't want the product made by their brothers and sisters and mothers for sale in their county,'' he said, ``they sure don't want some out-of-state guy dropping off a case of beer or a case of wine on their neighbor's front porch.''
Shipping alcohol is a felony in:
Shipping alcohol is prohibited in:
PHOTO (color) Bill MacIver, owner of Santa Rosa's Matanzas Creek Winery, says alcohol laws cheat customers.
BOX: BOTTLE BUSTS (see text)