Attorney General: Edwin R. Rodriguez, Commissioner of Consumer Protection, Chairman, Liquor Control Commission, 2005-012 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

May 16, 2005

Edwin R. Rodriguez
Commissioner of Consumer Protection
Chairman, Liquor Control Commission
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Commissioner Rodriguez:

This is in response to your request for an opinion on whether it would be lawful, under Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-77(b), for students at Connecticut College to form a brewing club for the purpose of making beer on the college campus in New London, Connecticut, without a liquor permit required by the Liquor Control Act. Consumption would be restricted to persons over the age of twenty-one. For the following reasons, our conclusion is negative. However, an academic study, without the production and consumption of beer, would be permissible under the Act.

Your inquiry originates from a letter to you from David Milstone, Dean of Student Life at Connecticut College. Dean Milstone's letter summarizes the proposal, in pertinent part, as follows:

The students have requested permission to start a new group on campus called "The Brewing Club." The founder of this group has noble intentions in that he wishes to teach other students the art of making beer.
***

We seek advice as to the whether a student brewing club, pursuant to section 30-77 or any other statutory provision, can legally brew beer under the following circumstances:

(i) the club will brew beer only on the campus of the College;

(ii) none of the brewed beer will be sold or offered for sale;

(iii) consistent with long-standing College policy, no person under the age of twenty-one will be allowed to consume the beer;

(iv) at all times, at least two individuals over the age of twenty-one will be present during brewing and will oversee the production of the beer;

(v) the student club will have a faculty/staff advisor over the age of twenty-one;

(vi) the student club will brew 50 gallons or less of beer per year.

If there are other conditions that might make this proposal more acceptable to the Commission, please let me know.

I was employed at a College in Massachusetts for many years at which a faculty member conducted a workshop called "The Chemistry of Wine Making and Tasting" which was routinely well-attended and a wonderful example of how education can help turn a sometimes problematic social issue into a useful educational one. We are interested in supporting the students' interests and seek your advice as to how we could make this possible.

Connecticut College has an enrollment of approximately 1,850 men and women from 44 states and 50 countries. See, http://www.conncoll.edu/aboutcc/ As a primarily undergraduate, residential college, its student body necessarily includes a large population of students under age 21, which is below the legal drinking age. Conn. Gen. Stat.  30-1(12). With certain exceptions not here relevant, the delivery of liquor to a minor is a crime in Connecticut. Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-86(b)1. Accordingly, even if the club were permitted under Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-77(b), it could not include minors. Moreover, for the following reasons, we do not believe that the statute sanctions clubs.

Alcoholic liquor is a legal product, but almost every aspect of it is pervasively regulated. "It is to state the obvious to observe that the liquor industry is heavily regulated." Schieffelin & Co. v. Dept. of Liquor Control, 194 Conn. 165, 180 (1984). "This court has recognized that the state's power and authority over the regulation of the liquor business is broad and pervasive." Nelseco Navigation Co. v. Dept. of Liquor Control, 226 Conn. 418, 422 (1993). "[B]ecause of the danger to the public health and welfare inherent in liquor traffic, the police power to regulate the liquor trade runs broad and deep, more so than comparable regulatory power over other activities." Crescimanni v. Dept. of Liquor Control, 41 Conn. App. 83, 87 (1996) (citations omitted). Indeed, in one period in American history, the manufacture of alcohol was completely prohibited under the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. U.S. Const., Am. XVIII2 ( Ratified 1919). Prohibition was repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment. U.S. Const., Am. XXI3 (Ratified 1933). "The Twenty-first Amendment grants the states virtually complete control over whether to permit importation and sale of liquor and how to structure the liquor distribution system." California Retail Liquor Dealers Ass'n v. Midcal Aluminum, Inc., 445 U.S. 97, 110 (1980).

Vested with this authority, Connecticut regulates alcoholic liquor under the Liquor Control Act. Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-1 et seq. That act, at Conn. Gen. Stat.  30-16,4 generally requires a permit in order to engage in the manufacture of beer. A permit premises requires, inter alia, a fixed property under the control of a legally responsible permittee and backer, and it is subject to local zoning approval. Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-44; 30-47(6); 30-52. Otherwise, the activity is generally prohibited. Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-77(a)5. Under the information provided, the proposed Connecticut College Brewing Club does not intend to acquire real estate, construct a premises, and assume the legal and financial burdens of starting a manufacturing facility, or any other type of liquor permit premises permitted to microbrew beer under the Connecticut Liquor Control Act. Rather, the descriptive information clearly demonstrates that the club seeks to qualify under the exception described in Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-77(b) to proceed as a hobby club activity.

The applicable exception provides as follows:

(b) The provisions of this section shall not prohibit a person, other than a minor, from producing beer for personal or family use only, in the following amounts: (1) One hundred gallons or less in one calendar year if there are two persons who have attained the age of twenty-one residing in the household; and (2) fifty gallons or less in one calendar year if there is only one person who has attained the age of twenty-one residing in the household. Such beer may be transported in sealed containers for use at organized affairs including beer exhibitions, contests or competitions. Such beer shall not be sold or offered for sale.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-77(b) (emphasis added).

This exception clearly permits small volume production at home by the home-brewing hobbyist, not a minor, for personal or family use. It does not apply to a club of unrelated persons outside the home. "The meaning of a statute shall, in the first instance, be ascertained from the text of the statute itself and its relationship to other statutes. If, after examining such text and considering such relationship, the meaning of such text is plain and unambiguous and does not yield absurd or unworkable results, extratextual evidence of the meaning of the statute shall not be considered." Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-2z. In cases where the statute is not clear, we must resort to other rules of statutory construction. In re Valerie D., 223 Conn.492, 512-13 (1992). "[O]ur fundamental objective is to ascertain and give effect to the apparent intent of the legislature In seeking to discern that intent, we look to the words of the statute itself, to the legislative history and circumstances surrounding its enactment, to the legislative policy it was designed to implement, and to the relationship to existing legislation and common law principles governing the same subject matter." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Herbert S. Newman & Partners v. CFC Construction Ltd. Partnership, 236 Conn. 750, 755-56 (1996). Furthermore, it is an "elementary rule of statutory construction that we must read the legislative scheme as a whole in order to give effect to and harmonize all of the parts." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Connecticut Light & Power Co. v. Dept. of Public Utility Control, 216 Conn. 627, 636 (1990). Because the legislature is presumed to have created a harmonious and consistent body of work, we read statutes together when they relate to the same subject matter. Hammond v. Commissioner of Correction, 259 Conn. 855, 875-76 (2002) citing Derwin v. State Employees Retirement Commission, 234 Conn. 411, 420 (1995).

It is at once apparent that the statutory exception from the liquor permit requirements applies only to "personal or family" use and the activity is clearly envisioned as occurring in a "household." The term "personal" means "1.  Of or relating to a particular person, private." American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition). The term "family" means "1a.  A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children. b.  Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place. 2.  All the members of a household under one roof. 3.  A group of persons sharing common ancestry." American Heritage Dictionary. The term "household" means "1a.  A domestic unit consisting of the members of a family who live together along with nonrelatives such as servants. b.  The living spaces and possessions belonging to such a unit. 2.  A person or group of people occupying a single dwelling." American Heritage Dictionary.

The Connecticut College Brewing Club does not appear to fall within these common meanings. A college student club is certainly an association of people with a common interest, but it does not possess the social or legal unions of the same type as that contemplated by the terms employed in the home-brewing statutory exception. A "club" is "a group of people organized for a common purpose, especially a group that meets regularly." American Heritage Dictionary.

The legislative history of Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-77(b) also supports this conclusion. In Senate debate on the bill when the measure was passed, it appears that the legislative understanding of the scope of this statute was similarly restrictive. The bill was described as " an Amendment which touches upon an individual's ability to brew beer at home, up to certain amounts." Remarks of Senator Kissel, 39 Sen. Proc., 1996 Sess. Pt. 15 at p. 5146. (Emphasis added).

Accordingly, student clubs do not come within the exception of Conn. Gen. Stat.  30-77(b). Exemptions to statutes are strictly construed and those who claim the benefit of an exemption have the burden of proving that they come within the limited class for whose benefit it was established. Conservation Commission v. Price, 193 Conn. 414, 424 (1984). Liquor traffic is an activity in which no one can engage without the law's permission. State v. Harrington, 3 Conn. Cir. 674, 682 (1966). The home-brewing exception under the Connecticut Liquor Control Act does not apply to student clubs. For all of the foregoing reasons, we believe that the proposed Brewing Club at Connecticut College cannot be permitted as an exception to the permit requirements of the Liquor Control Act under Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-77(b). However, an academic study, without the production and consumption of beer, would avoid the restrictions of the Act.

Very truly yours,


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL


Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General

RFV/ni


1Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-86(b) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Any person who delivers or gives any such liquors to such minor, by any means shall be fined not more than one thousand five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than eighteen months, or both.

2 U.S. Const. , Am. XVIII, Sec. 1 provides:

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof, into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

3 U.S. Const. Am. XXI, Sec. 2 provides:

The transportation, or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

4Conn. Gen. Stat.  30-16 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Sec. 30-16. Manufacturer permit. (a) A manufacturer permit shall allow the manufacture of alcoholic liquor and the storage, bottling and wholesale distribution and sale of alcoholic liquor manufactured or bottled to permittees in this state and without the state as may be permitted by law; but no such permit shall be granted unless the place or the plan of the place of manufacture has received the approval of the Department of Consumer Protection. A holder of a manufacturer permit may apply for and shall receive an out-of-state shipper's permit for manufacturing plants and warehouse locations outside the state owned by such manufacturer or a subsidiary corporation thereof, at least eighty-five per cent of the voting stock of which is owned by such manufacturer, to bring into any of its plants or warehouses in the state alcoholic liquors for reprocessing, repackaging, reshipment or sale either (1) within the state to wholesaler permittees not owned or controlled by such manufacturer or (2) outside the state. A holder of a manufacturer permit, except a manufacturer permit for cider, may apply for and shall receive a wholesaler permit. The annual fee for a manufacturer permit shall be one thousand six hundred dollars.

(b) A manufacturer permit for beer shall be in all respects the same as a manufacturer permit, except that the scope of operations of the holder shall be limited to beer, but shall permit the storage of beer in any part of the state. Such permit shall also authorize the offering and tasting, on the premises of the permittee, of free samples of beer brewed on such premises. The offering and tasting shall be limited to visitors who have attended a tour of the premises of the permittee. The annual fee for a manufacturer permit for beer shall be eight hundred dollars.

5 Conn. Gen. Stat.  30-77(a) provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Sec. 30-77. Disposing of liquor without permit. (a) Any person who, without a permit therefore, except as provided in section 30-37 or subsection (b) of section 12-436, the provisions of which shall not be construed as requiring an individual to be physically present at the point of purchase of alcoholic beverages to import such alcoholic beverages, or contrary to the provisions of this chapter and the regulations of the Department of Consumer Protection with respect to the class of permit held by such person, manufactures or, by sample, by soliciting or procuring orders, or otherwise, sells or delivers, or offers or exposes for sale or delivery, or owns or keeps with intent to sell or deliver, or who ships, transports or imports into this state, any alcoholic liquor, shall be subject to the penalties prescribed in section 30-113;


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