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Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Connecticut Liquor Laws

Court upholds “lawfulness” of State of Connecticut liquor regulations

From Staff Reports

United States District Court Judge Janet C. Hall dismissed the lawsuit by Total Wine & More against the State of the Connecticut challenging the state’s liquor laws on June 6, 2017. The lawsuit, filed on August 23, 2016, names Jonathan Harris, the state’s former Consumer Protection Commissioner, and John Suchy, Director of the Liquor Control Division, as defendants.

In its decision, the court addressed price discrimination prohibition challenged by Total Wine & More and concluded “it’s a unilateral restraint outside the scope of the Sherman Act,” whereas unilateral restraints are “imposed by government … to the exclusion of private control.”

The court states in its decision, “Connecticut simply prohibits liquor wholesalers from charging different prices to different retailers. Although wholesalers may choose what price they will charge all retailers, they are prohibited from charging different prices.”

According to the court, “Total Wine’s challenges to the post and hold provisions and minimum retail price provisions are dismissed, because these provisions constitute hybrid restraints that receive rule of reason scrutiny and therefore cannot be preempted. Total Wine’s claim that the price discrimination prohibition is preempted is also dismissed, because that provision is a unilateral restraint outside the scope of the Sherman Act.”

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