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Montgomery McCracken Wins Major Victory at Pennsylvania Supreme Court for Wine & Liquor Dealers and Restaurateurs

March 26, 2021


Montgomery McCracken is pleased to announce the successful representation of its clients in an action in mandamus against the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (“PLCB”). On March 25, 2021, in MFW Wine Co. et al. v. PLCB, 30 MAP 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a Commonwealth Court ruling that held the PLCB has failed to properly implement changes to the Liquor Code that authorized specialty wine and liquor dealers to deliver products directly to retailers, restaurants, and individuals.

Montgomery McCracken attorneys John G. Papianou and Joseph E. Samuel, Jr. led the litigation team, with assistance from Patrick T. Ryan and Robert E. Day.

The Commonwealth Court’s decision in 2020 vindicated our client’s position in this hard-fought litigation. Prior to the monumental changes to the Liquor Code brought by Act 39 of 2016, customers of specialty wine and liquor products (those not available at PLCB state stores) were required to physically travel to a state store to retrieve the product—and pay a per-bottle fee to the PLCB.  These amendments to the Liquor Code authorized a new direct delivery system for specialty wine and liquor and mandated the PLCB to implement it by June 1, 2017.  To date, the PLCB has not yet implemented the direct delivery system.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, the PLCB closed the state stores, shutting down the ability of restaurants and retailers to pick up specialty wine and liquor—and further exacerbating the PLCB’s failure to implement a direct delivery system per Act 39’s mandate. On May 1, 2020, Commonwealth Court Judge P. Kevin Brobson ruled in MFW Wine that the agency must allow for direct deliveries of specialty wines and liquors. The PLCB’s board members unanimously voted to appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court two weeks later, but Montgomery McCracken’s clients have now won that appeal.

The case returns to Commonwealth Court, which is now empowered by a Supreme Court affirmance to enforce its mandate to the PLCB to implement direct delivery.  In related litigation, Montgomery McCracken also represents a putative class that seeks the return of the unlawful collected handling fee on every bottle of specialty wine and liquor sold since the PLCB’s compliance deadline of June 1, 2017.  That case was stayed pending the disposition of the appeal in MFW Wine.

About Montgomery McCracken

Montgomery McCracken is a full-service law firm with offices in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. The firm represents leading businesses, multinational corporations, nonprofit organizations, and individuals across a wide range of industries in complex litigation, intellectual property, bankruptcy and financial restructuring matters, corporate transactions, and challenging disputes. For more information about Montgomery McCracken or its practice areas, please visit us online at www.mmwr.com or on Twitter at @MMWR_Law.