The laws governing the sale and distribution of alcohol in Massachusetts date back to the end of Prohibition in 1933. Like many other states, Massachusetts utilizes a “three-tier system” for the distribution of alcohol. The hallmark of the three-tier system is the strict separation between alcohol producers (the first tier), wholesale distributors (the second tier), and retailers, such as restaurants and liquor stores (the third tier). With limited exceptions in Massachusetts, alcohol producers may only sell their products to wholesale distributors, who then sell the products to retailers. Only retailers may sell to consumers.
Conn Kavanaugh attorneys have represented clients in all three tiers of the alcoholic beverages industry for many years. Our clients include craft brewers and distillers, family wineries, national and international manufacturers and suppliers, importers, wholesalers, retail vendors, and restaurants. We provide expertise to help our clients navigate the three-tier system, resolve disputes, and achieve their business goals.
Our attorneys appear regularly before the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) in licensing, enforcement, and franchise matters, and have earned a highly respected reputation among clients and regulators alike. We have significant experience litigating franchise disputes under Mass. Gen. Laws c. 138 § 25E on behalf of suppliers and wholesalers, both before the ABCC and Massachusetts state courts, including appellate courts. We regularly draft import and distribution agreements and represent clients before licensing agencies when they are seeking licenses at the local, state, and federal level. We also provide day-to-day advice to our industry clients on compliance with Massachusetts laws concerning the sale and distribution of alcohol.
In addition, the firm’s attorneys have assisted clients in the alcoholic beverage industry in resolving employment disputes, negotiating employment agreements, completing transfers of ownership, and other corporate matters. Our full-service legal representation may include any of the following:
- Alcoholic beverages licensing and permitting
- Alcoholic beverages franchise litigation
- Contract drafting and negotiation, including distribution agreements
- Regulatory investigations and hearings
- Regulatory compliance
- Corporate financing and transactions
- Entity formation
- Wage and hour/labor and employment counseling and litigation
- Wage and hour audits
- Defense of wrongful termination and employment discrimination claims
- Employment law counseling
- Leasing, acquisitions, and land use
- OSHA compliance and crisis response and management
- Product/material defect and warranty claims
- Intra-corporate business disputes
- Representation before administrative agencies
- Insurance coverage counseling
- Dispute resolution through litigation, arbitration, and mediation
As needs arise for our clients in the alcoholic beverages industry, we regularly coordinate legal services with our colleagues in our Employment Law, Business Litigation, Corporate & Transactional, and Real Estate practice groups. This provides a seamless experience for our clients and dramatically reduces the time needed to get up to speed.