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I was reading PR Newswire’s article, 1 in 4 adults who purchase alcohol through online vendors or directly from manufacturers do not get IDs checked at the point of delivery. It got me thinking—our 3-tier system, which separates makers, distributors, and sellers of alcohol, has been around forever. The whole point was to keep things in check and prevent minors from getting alcohol. Maybe it’s time we rethink this system to better fit today’s world.

What is the Three-Tier System?

After Prohibition was repealed, the United States established a three-tier system for alcohol sales. There are three tiers: 

  1. Importers or Producers
  2. Distributors
  3. Retailers 

The system’s core structure is that producers can only sell their products to wholesale distributors, who in turn sell to retailers, and only retailers can sell to consumers. Brewers, winemakers, distillers, and importers are all types of producers. The three-tier scheme aims to restrict connected dwellings and “disorderly marketing conditions.”

Why Some People Want to Stick with the Three-Tier System 

People who support the three-tier system argue it’s crucial for keeping alcohol sales under control. They worry that if we let everyone sell booze online freely, it could lead to more problems, like underage drinking or shady sales. Which makes sense. I mean, we don’t want kids ordering vodka with their groceries or their dinner. 

And while that’s a valid point, there are ways this can be kept at arm’s length. Instacart, for example, has customers input their ID when buying alcohol, and a quick API connected to the site confirms if the license is legit. Now, even in person, people fall through the cracks, so it’s inevitable to happen online also; however, having this step in place can make a huge difference. 

Time for a Change

It’s time to modernize how we do things. Overall, things have changed since the prohibition, and technology and the way we shop are way different. Small businesses and local wineries could reach more individuals without having to rely on big distributors and selling online- which could be huge. I mean, imagine that your favorite local winery can’t get their bottles on store shelves, BUT they can sell online to anyone who wants to buy their wine. 

In today’s world, you can really boost your wine business with effective social media marketing. That kind of buzz can boost online alcohol sales like crazy. It’s not just about seeing it on a shelf anymore- it’s about seeing it on our screens. This is where platforms like Winelikes come into play. Imagine being able to find a new favorite wine through a recommendation on the app, and then being able to buy it directly from the winery online. It bridges the gap between discovery and purchase seamlessly, helping wine businesses sell wine and find more customers!

Why Changing the System for Alcohol Sales Is Tricky

There are distributors and retailers who also benefit from things staying the same. They have lobbyists pushing to keep the three-tier system as it is. This can stop us from getting more choices and better prices. 

If the rules around alcohol sales are loosened up a bit, it could boost our economy by helping small businesses grow. More competition could mean better prices and choices for buyers. Plus, using modern tech for verification purposes could make sure rules are followed with no hassle. 

Finding a Balance for Tomorrow’s Happy Hour

So where do we go from here? The 3-tier system has its reasons for being around, but I believe that it’s time to update it for today. By learning from what’s working in other industries and using new tech, we can make sure alcohol sales are safe, easy, and fair for all of us. Apps like Winelikes show how technology can transform our experiences and help us discover new favorites by embracing wine education, and proving that modernization can benefit everyone in the alcohol market.

Download Winelikes today on the Apple App Store or Google Play!