Co-Branding Wine Clubs Permissible in New York Under Certain Conditions

A brick & mortar wine store operated a website with a wine club called the “Tasting Room.”  Online orders were received and processed at the brick & mortar store during store hours and shipments were sent from its licensed warehouse.  Pay-per-click advertising through Google and other third party marketing companies were approved practices by the Liquor Authority provided fees were a flat-fee and not a percentage of sales.

The Liquor Authority recently reviewed a request by this wine store for permission to co-brand its next wine club “Forbes Wine Club”, where Forbes would do the advertising.  This co-branding was permissible because the orders were received, reviewed and processed (or rejected) by the wine store’s employees at the store during store hours.  The wine was selected and priced by the wine store and it was not operating on a just-in-time order processing basis.  A Just-In-Time order processing system would violate the ABC Laws limiting sales of alcohol to certain hours since orders could be processed 24 hours per day.  Forbe’s role was limited to marketing and it did not otherwise actively participate in activities reserved for licensees: selecting the products to sell, arranging for delivery through licensed wholesalers, pricing the products, processing orders and payments and verifying purchaser ID.  In this case, everything was done by the wine store employees except packing the boxes and shipping them.  This was done by We Ship on the instructions of wine store employees.

The website and promotional materials clearly indicated the wine store was the retailer and there was no deception concerning Forbe’s role.  Forbe’s compensation was a flat fee per customer and in no way related to a percentage of sales.  Since their fee was not related to the

volume of sales, it was permissible.