ATF Ruling 73-21

Advice has been requested whether retail liquor dealers such as caterers, restaurant or bar proprietors, and carriers may, for the purpose of dispensing taxpaid wine to their customers or passengers, utilize containers other than the original containers in which wine was removed for sale and consumption from custody of the Bureau of Customs or from plants under control of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

While it is recognized that such dealers may utilize decanters for table or room service, banquets, and similar purposes, the specific questions arose over the use of containers including wine casks or barrels, stainless steel tanks, dispensing devices, or coolers into which bottles or packages of tax-paid wines are dumped for dispensing to consumers by the dealers.

Authority for the Director, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, to prescribe requirements for bottling or packaging of wines in containers bearing marks, brands, or labels evidencing compliance or in compliance with such requirements are set out in 27 U.S.C. 205(e) and 26 U.S.C. 5368. The former section states that it shall be unlawful for any member of the industry to sell or ship or otherwise introduce in interstate or foreign commerce, or remove from customs custody for consumption, any wine unless labeled so as to provide the consumer with adequate information about the identity and quality of the product. The latter section provides for wine to be removed in containers bearing such marks, brands, labels, or to be otherwise identified in such manner as the regulations prescribe. Severe penalties are set out in 26 U.S.C. 5662 where any person who without authority (of the Director, ATF) alters any mark, brand or label required to appear on any wine upon removal from customs custody or from premises subject to ATF control. In addition, 26 U.S.C. 5352 provides for the establishment of taxpaid wine bottling houses where taxpaid wine is to be bottled, packaged or repackaged on premises other than bottling premises of a distilled spirits plant. However, 26 CFR 194.292, written under the authority of section 5352, permits the decanting of wines by caterers or other retail dealers for table or room service, etc., provided the decanters are not to be furnished for carrying wine away from the serving area.

Held: It has been determined that the dispensing of wine by retail dealers from containers other than the original container would be acceptable under the above stated controlling statutes and regulations if:

1. Only identical wine from the same firm is added at any one time to the container from which wine will be dispensed by caterers, restaurant or bar proprietors, or public carriers.

2. The wine is dispensed by gravity, air pressure, or through the use of gases such as nitrogen. Carbon dioxide may not be used.

3. The wine is consumed on the premises or passenger conveyance where served.

4. The container (other than decanters permitted by 26 CFR 194.292) bears an identification tag or label showing the mandatory information required to be placed on the original containers (except the net contents should be shown as that of the container from which the wine will be dispensed).

26 CFR 194.292, 27 CFR 4.30.