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Liquor retailer protests Md. law

Store says banning bulk-discount buys is antitrust violation

July 03, 2000|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

"The wholesalers don't want to compete with each other," he said. "The retailers don't want to compete with each other."

His company appealed to the fourth circuit in Richmond. The state appealed portions of Smalkin's ruling in which he found the "per se" violation of anti-trust law and that the state was not immune to the anti-trust law's provisions.

Lawyers for both sides argued the case in April before the appeals court.

Murphy, the lawyer for TFWS, told the judges, "What the state cannot do is to allow private parties to, in effect, violate the Sherman Act with a gauze of state involvement thrown over it."

Steven M. Sullivan, an assistant attorney general who defended Maryland's law, told the judges, "Volume discounts by their very nature reward volume sales. That's greater consumption of alcohol, and that's something that the state is entitled to limit under the 21st Amendment."

Schwartz, the lobbyist, said that if Beltway prevails, the change will have only a limited effect.

But others said a win by TFWS might prompt a reluctant General Assembly to take a look at its laws.

"If the court rules against the state, it's a whole new world," said Barve, the Montgomery County delegate who co-sponsored a bill to allow quantity discounts. "Then, all of a sudden, my point of view might get a second look."

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