Michigan Beer Distributors Lobby Takes Aim at Northwest Airlines

Northwest Airlines, which operates a hub at Detroit, has been cited for bringing in beer from out of state for service on its flights. Michigan law requires that beer must be purchased from state-licensed wholesalers.

(Northwest serves out of state beer on planes only, not in its clubs which are supplied by local distributors.)

    Karen Wilson, chief executive at Central Distributors of Beer in Romulus, said her company notified the Liquor Control Commission after some of her salespeople noticed pallets of beer bearing a Minnesota distributor’s name were delivered to Northwest at Metro Airport. Central Distributors has the exclusive rights to distribute Budweiser and other Anheuser-Busch beers across much of western Wayne County, including Metro Airport.


    A liquor commission investigator determined that the airline was illegally importing alcohol into Michigan and was breaking the law by purchasing from an unlicensed source.

The action is purely protectionism for local Michigan distributors who want to force Northwest to buy from them. What’s more, they’re lobbying the state to require monopoly distribution for wine in addition to beer.

Currently, only Northwest is targeted. Other airlines fly beer into Detroit and then back out on the same planes.

A pending Supreme Court decision, to be released this spring or summer, will look at whether protectionism for state liquor distributors is an unconstitutional restraint on interstate commerce (whose regulation is the purview solely of the federal government) or whether the constitutional amendment ending prohibition gave states the power to regulate alcohol in any way they want — for whatever reason, including personal financial gain of the distributors lobby.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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