Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries

Half a millennium ago, many brewers had only one law to worry about: the Reinheitsgebot. The “German Purity Law” was stringent — setting limits on pricing and restricting brewers to using only hops, barley, and water — but it shaped a relatively simple set of expectations compared to the complicated legal landscape brewers, vintners, and distillers face today. 

Goldberg Segalla’s Breweries, Wineries, and Distilleries Practice Group brings together a diverse group of attorneys skilled in corporate law, transactions, intellectual property, food and beverage law, employment issues, and complex commercial litigation. Just as important, these attorneys — all creative thinkers and discerning drinkers — are enthusiastic about startup culture and entrepreneurship, deeply invested in local and regional economic issues, and experienced in helping all varieties of businesses chart sustainable growth to meet expanding customer demands.

Starting Up: Legal Services, Distilled

Many successful wine, beer, and spirits brands start when highly skilled hobbyists make a leap of faith — and a significant investment. We understand the daunting costs involved in starting a business, and we know where the money goes first: tanks, tuns, kettles, casks, and kegs; real estate for warehouses, production, and tasting rooms; and then operational overhead, supplies, and marketing. Entrepreneurs often think of legal needs last, or else rely on a lawyer, a friend of a friend, with no experience in the licensing and sale of alcoholic beverages, transactions, corporate law, employment, insurance, or risk management.

And often, it’s for good reason. Law firms qualified to handle this kind of work have been slow to recognize the American boom in brewing and distilling. More comfortable dealing with banks and major corporations, they have failed to learn about the business models, growth patterns, and pain points of brewers, distillers, and vintners. Most importantly, they expect entrepreneurs in these challenging fields to pay Big Law, Big Business rates for services they don’t need.

Our model is different.

We’re qualified and equipped to help breweries, wineries, and distilleries with complex needs, big budgets, and international distribution networks. But because we’ve studied your industry from the ground floor, and learned step-by-step assisting other startup operations, we’ve been able to identify and distill the services that entrepreneurs need to begin operations and set themselves on the path to success — and we package them at rates our startup clients can afford. These services include:

  • Corporate formation
  • Identifying and securing financing or investment capital
  • Shareholder and ownership agreements
  • Obtaining new state and/or local retail alcoholic beverage licenses
  • Obtaining federal and state licenses and permits for manufacturers and wholesalers of wine, beer, and spirits
  • Federal and state compliance and trade practice guidance for retail licensees
  • Drafting and reviewing distribution agreements between manufacturers and wholesalers
  • Counsel and representation for Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Law violations
  • Trademark registration and protection

In addition, we’re happy to leverage our industry connections and make introductions to trusted professionals in accounting, insurance, marketing, and other fields.

Barrel-Aged: Meeting Your Maturing Needs

Beers, wines, and spirits mature. So do businesses. For both, the process heightens complexity and brings growth-stages when timing, conditions, and close attention mean everything.

As your business grows, your legal needs will mature along with it. Distribution agreements, intellectual property management, and real estate deals will be crucial for sustainable success; employment policies and practices can either foster a reliable and happy workforce or plant the seeds for disputes and legal headaches in the future; and expanding customer demands will draw you into new markets and new opportunities, along with new regulatory obligations.

As your legal needs mature, we’ll be at your side. Our team is equipped to anticipate risks, manage immediate concerns, and help you lay the groundwork for continued success. Our services cover every scenario and requirement a growing brewery, winery, or distillery might face. They include:

Growing your business:

  • Licensing with state authorities and/or local authorities
  • Reporting changes in existing retail alcoholic beverage licensed premises
  • Commercial real estate and leasing
  • Contract negotiation
  • Drafting standard forms for high-volume transactions (like purchase orders, processing forms, and service agreements)
  • Bottle labelling regulation compliance
  • Advising on borrowing transactions with banks and private lenders
  • Distribution agreements
  • Guidance on state franchise laws

Employment and labor:

  • Employment contracts, including non-compete clauses
  • Employment policies, including paid time off, family leave, and benefits
  • Employee handbooks
  • Human resources counseling and training
  • Licensing procedures for bouncers
  • Contracts for third-party security providers
  • Ensuring compliance with the Age Discrimination Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, and other laws and regulations
  • Representation before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration, and the New York State and New Jersey Divisions of Human Rights, as well as in state and federal courts
  • Wage and hour claims and related litigation
  • Workers’ compensation claims and related litigation

Intellectual property:

  • Filing and advising on patents, trade secrets, trademarks, and copyrights
  • Drafting and reviewing IP licensing agreements
  • Advising on cease and desist letters and other intellectual property-related communication from competitors

Liability and risk management:

  • Dram Shop liability training
  • Defense of personal injury claims
  • Defense of negligent hiring claims and counsel on security-related issues
  • Workplace safety and premises liability training
  • Counsel on insurance policies
  • Counsel on international regulatory standards

Our brewery, winery, and distillery clients also take comfort in Goldberg Segalla’s clout and prowess in litigation. Backed by a pioneering Intellectual Property team with an international reputation, powerhouse Workers’ Compensation and Employment and Labor practices, and a Commercial Litigation group repeatedly recognized in Chambers USA, we can handle and resolve any type of dispute that might entangle our clients and threaten their businesses.