Illinois authorizes returns of wine and spirits for bars and restaurants. But act fast and don’t expect much – the guidance is limited in ways beer returns are not.

In a new guidance (link to guidance) published today, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission has authorized the return of wine and spirits purchased during a limited period prior to the current COVID-19 crisis. You’ll recall that there had been a limited right of return authorized for cancelled St. Patrick’s day festivities and that beer returns were authorized shortly after the initial Illinois actions and stay in place orders.

Wine and spirits had not been subject to a broader return right until this guidance and it appears that for some reason, they are treated much much differently than beer – the lack of the ability to return the product for cash as opposed to credit and the restrictions on timing of purchase being the biggest differences.

The new guidance authorizes retailers with the privilege of on-premises consumption or combined on/off premises consumption to return (note that your distributors are not required to accept any returns) of wine or spirits purchased between 2.18.20 and 3.16.20 for credit against current or future indebtedness.

A few ways this is different from the beer returns:

  • This guidance only authorizes returns of wine and spirits purchased between February 18, 2020 and March 16, 2020 (a 1 month period) whereas there was no purchased after date restriction for beer and the before date was March 23. So this is a very restricted time frame that doesn’t take into account the habits of buying in bulk nor the realities of the shelf-life of spirits and wine such that many bars and restaurants may have stocks of perfectly returnable and resalable wine and spirits purchased in the past year or even earlier – before February 19, that they cannot return.
  • The guidance has a drop-dead request date of June 1, 2020, by which you need to request the return, but there is no such requirement for a “ask by” date in the beer guidance.
  • The beer guidance was based on the intended end consumption method and allowed returns from on-premise retailers for beer purposed for on-premise sales, but not for beer purposed for off-premise sales whereas the liquor returns
  • Beer could be returned for cash or credit against outstanding debt, but liquor cannot be returned for cash and can only be returned for credit for outstanding or future indebtedness.
  • There appear to be packaging/size requirements for liquor and wine (original cases as opposed to beer’s “original package”) that were not placed on beer.

Ashley Brandt

Hi there! I’m happy you’re here. My name is Ashley Brandt and I’m an attorney in Chicago representing clients in the Food and Beverage, Advertising, Media, and Real Estate industries. A while back I kept getting calls and questions from industry professionals and attorneys looking for advice and information on a fun and unique area of law that I’m lucky enough to practice in. These calls represented a serious lack of, and need for, some answers, news, and information on the legal aspects of marketing and media. I've got this deep seeded belief that information should be readily available and that the greatest benefit from the information age is open access to knowledge... so ... this blog seemed like the best way to accomplish that. I enjoy being an attorney and it’s given me some amazing opportunities, wonderful experiences, and an appreciation and love for this work. I live in Chicago and work at an exceptional law firm, Goldstein & McClintock, with some truly brilliant people. Feel free to contact me at any time with any issues, comments, concerns… frankly, after reading this far, I hope you take the time to at least let me know what you think about the blog and how I can make it a better resource.

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