Winebow, Inc. v. Capitol-Husting Co., Inc., No. 16-3682 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Winebow imports and distributes wines to downstream wholesalers. It wants to cut its ties with two wholesale distributors, which have had the exclusive right to sell and distribute Winebow products within specified regions of Wisconsin. The distributors claim that the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law bars Winebow from doing so—at least without any financial penalty. Under the Law, certain sellers (Wis. Stat. 135.02(5)) unilaterally may stop doing business with their existing distributors only if they have “good cause.” The Law does not regulate all grantor-distributor relationships. In 1999, the Wisconsin General Assembly sought to broaden the Law to ensure that all “intoxicating liquor” dealerships were protected. It included changes in the state’s budget bill, which amended the definition of a “dealership” so that large-volume distributors of “intoxicating liquor” were brought under the umbrella of the statute’s definition of a protected “dealership.” Several changes never came into effect, because then-Governor Thompson objected to treating wine dealerships the same as other alcohol dealerships. He partially vetoed the appropriations bill, striking significant portions of the changes to the Law. In Winebow’s declaratory judgment action, the Seventh Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin the question whether wine dealerships are automatically to be considered as “intoxicating liquor” dealerships for purposes of the Law.