Thursday, September 29, 2011

Holders of California ABC On-Sale Licenses May Now Infuse Spirits and Wine

Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 32 (Leno), to amend Section 23016 of the Business and Professions Code effective immediately. Section 23016 defines a “Rectifier” (defined below); this amendment now allows on-sale licensees to infuse spirits and wine with flavors or blending processes. The issue of infused wine and spirits on on-sale retail premises came to light after enforcement action was taken by the ABC in San Francisco at an on-sale retail location where the owner was infusing spirits for a special drink offered to its patrons.

Business and Professions Code Section 23016 now reads:

“Rectifier” means every person who colors, flavors, or otherwise processes distilled spirits by distillation, blending, percolating, or other processes. “Rectifier” does not include an on-sale licensee that colors, flavors, or blends distilled spirits or wine products on the on-sale licensed premises to be consumed on the licensed premises.

For more information on California ABC matters contact Mike Mann at

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New Informational Postings Required for Employers by November 14, 2011

Effective November 14, 2011, most non-union employers will have to post a new poster explaining to employees their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.   The poster will explain employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act, including the right to unionize, the right to discuss wages, and the right to picket and strike.  The poster will also explain what unfair labor practices are and how to file a charge.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will provide free downloads of the poster from its website, or you can order paper copies.  For more detailed information about the required posting you can consult the NLRB fact sheet at  Or consult your legal counsel.

For more information on labor and employment matters contact Jennifer Phillips at

Monday, September 26, 2011

New California Direct-to-Consumer Wine License Available January 1, 2012

Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 623 (Williams) to create a limited direct-to-consumer wine license in California.  The bill creates a new limited off-sale retail wine license which becomes effective on January 1, 2012 under Section 23393.5 of the California Business and Professions Code. 

The limited off-sale retail wine license authorizes the sale of wine by the licensee if all of the following conditions are met:
  1. Sales are restricted to those solicited and accepted via direct mail, telephone, or the Internet;
  2. Sales are not conducted from a retail premises open to the public;
  3. The licensee takes possession of and title to all alcoholic beverages sold by the licensee; and
  4. All alcoholic beverages sold by the licensee are delivered to the purchaser from the licensee's licensed premises or from a Type 14 licensed public warehouse. 
Current type 17/20 licensees who must make sales to a licensed retailer (under Type 17 license) every 45 days could transition to the new license and conduct consumer-only sales.

For more information or assistance on California ABC matters contact Mike Mann at  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Update on “Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act”

Governor Jerry Brown’s June 2011 veto of SB 104, "The Fair Treatment for Farm Workers Act," was the fifth straight year that the bill passed the legislature only to be vetoed.  The bill would have required a farm employer to recognize a union on the strength of a majority of the employees signing cards signifying interest in unionization.  The bill also contained revised rules concerning agricultural workers’ overtime.  The veto came as a surprise to most as Governor Brown has historically championed labor.  In vetoing the bill, Governor Brown noted that although he appreciated the frustrations giving rise to the bill, it was a ”drastic change” and he was not yet convinced that the provisions were ”justified.”

Three short months later Governor Brown proposed his own revisions to the bill, which was introduced this month by Darrell Steinberg as SB 126.  The bill addresses issues of illegal employer activity in the election process.  Some of the key elements of SB126 are the following:
  • Allows immediate certification of a union if employer election violations could have affected a unionization vote.
  • Provides an expedited process for the ALRB to certify elections. Farm workers now must wait up to two years or more after voting before they can begin negotiating a union contract with growers.
  • Gives authority for the ALRB general counsel to go to court to reinstate farm workers who are illegally fired by employers during union election drives.
  • Provides an accelerated process under the state’s 2002 binding mediation law, allowing mediation to produce a union contract to commence after 90 days instead of 180 days of normal bargaining.
SB 126 passed the legislature and was presented to the Governor on September 16, 2011.  As of today the Governor has not signed the bill into law.

For more information or assistance on labor and employment issues contact Jennifer Phillips at

Monday, September 12, 2011

TTB Takes Position on Information to Be Included On Wine Websites

Recently, the TTB has been in contact with wine industry members regarding changes required to the landing pages of their websites.  Under federal regulations governing the labeling and advertising of wine (27 CFR 4), an advertisement for wine “shall state the name and address of the permittee responsible for its publication or broadcast.”  According to the TTB, this regulation requires that the name and address of the basic permit holder appear on the landing page of a company’s website.  The TTB considers the landing page of a website the original or first page that comes on the screen when the website address is typed in. Therefore, even where the landing page of a website is just a click-through to other more detailed pages, the name and address of the permit holder must still be included on this initial landing page to comply with the TTB’s interpretation of this regulation.  The TTB confirmed that a full address is not necessary to satisfy this rule - only the city and state listed on the basic permit needs to be included. 

For more information regarding the advertising and labeling of wine, or for assistance with other areas of state or federal alcohol beverage regulation, please contact Bahaneh Hobel at

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Aggressive State Stream Diversion Enforcement Comes to Napa River Watershed

A number of property owners in Napa County, including wineries, recently have received a form letter from the State Water Resources Control Board entitled, “NOTICE OF POTENTIAL UNAUTHORIZED DIVERSION AND USE OF WATER, AND FAILURE TO FILE A STATEMENT OF WATER DIVERSION AND USE FOR DIVERSION OF WATER IN NAPA COUNTY.”   

The letter states that the Board has identified a reservoir on the subject property that appears to be on a “class I, class II, or class III stream,” but has determined that there is no record of a permit authorizing diversions from the stream into the reservoir.  (A class I stream is a stream where fish are always or seasonally present, a class II stream is a stream where fish are not present but certain aquatic species exist (frogs, salamanders, benthic insects), a class III stream does not support aquatic life.)  The notice spells out the various civil fines for unauthorized stream diversions ($1,000 for failure to file a statement of diversion, plus $500 per day the violation continues if a statement is not filed within 30 days of Board notice), and gives the property owner three options:

1.         Prove that you no longer own the property, or that there is in fact no reservoir on the property;

2.         Prove that you indeed do have the appropriate permit or water right authorizing the diversion, or that you have been filling the reservoir with purchased water, groundwater, or other water not subject to the Board’s jurisdiction; or

3.         Take corrective action within 60 days.

What is “corrective action?”  The Board states that, “[n]ormally, an unauthorized diversion can be stopped, removed, rendered incapable of storing water, or legalized through the appropriative water right permit process.”   Unfortunately, if a property owner wishes to apply for a permit to legalize an existing unauthorized diversion, the Board’s “Policy for Maintaining Instream Flows” (see here: states that after May 5, 2011, it will no longer approve water rights applications for reservoirs built with an onstream dam on streams designated as a class I or class II stream (see definitions above).

There is also the question of whether the Board is even correct in assuming that the subject reservoirs are the result of stream diversion.

The Board’s website may be found here:

For more information or further assistance on land use or water law matters contact Tom Carey at