Alcoholic Beverage Industry

LEADERSHIP: Alva C. Mather

Companies that produce, distribute or sell alcoholic beverages operate in one of the world’s most regulated markets — and the industry is constantly evolving. From the rise of small craft brewers, to the purchase and consolidation of the supplier and wholesale tiers, to a dynamic and shifting regulatory framework, alcohol beverage companies need counsel who understand these complexities in order to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Pepper Hamilton LLP’s Alcoholic Beverage Industry Practice represents breweries, wineries, distilleries, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, restaurateurs, importers, retailers and third-party providers of all sizes — ranging from small startups to some of the industry’s largest entities. Our lawyers advise on the myriad laws and considerations that alcoholic beverage companies must deal with as they take their products from concept to market.

Our services for these clients range from everyday business counseling to complex alcohol-specific representations, including the following:

Licensing and Regulatory Guidance

Alcoholic beverage companies must deal with a complicated regime that involves federal and state regulation and requirements that often vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Pepper helps our alcohol clients navigate these regulations and advises them on all aspects of licensing matters nationwide, including licensing new facilities, license purchase negotiations and license transfers.

Corporate and Transactional

Pepper represents alcoholic beverage clients in the full array of corporate matters, from day-to-day business concerns to transactions unique to the alcohol industry. We advise clients on formation, incorporation, corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, employment, real estate, and tax matters, among others. Pepper also has a robust Emerging Growth Practice, which offers corporate services to startup and early-stage companies.

Business Counseling

Pepper’s deep knowledge of the alcoholic beverage industry informs our counseling for alcohol clients. We serve as trusted advisors to these clients as they grow their business, while maintaining compliance with federal and state regulations. Among the matters we advise on are distribution agreements, related wholesaler terminations, franchising agreements, and contract brewing and other supply agreements. We also understand the various requirements affecting marketing, advertising and labeling in the alcohol industry and regularly counsel our clients on these issues.

Litigation, Investigation and Enforcement

While we aim to protect our clients from risk, we understand that some risks are unavoidable. Whether it is an enforcement action or an investigation by federal or state alcohol regulators or civil litigation with a contracting party, we work closely with our alcohol clients to determine the best approach and how to achieve that solution in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. Our litigation and enforcement experience in the industry includes representing clients in cases before alcohol regulatory commissions as well civil litigation involving supplier/distributor issues, franchise issues and contract disputes.

Trade Practices

The trade practice provisions of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act as well as the state law equivalents are some of the most important and complex regulations affecting alcoholic beverage companies. Pepper Hamilton advises our alcohol clients on issues regarding the exclusive outlet, tied house, commercial bribery, consignment sales, labeling and advertising provisions, to name a few. We regularly work with clients to navigate both Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau actions as well as state regulatory systems to ensure compliance.

Intellectual Property

We recognize that an alcoholic beverage company’s intellectual property is among its most important assets, and we help alcohol clients protect and defend the IP that sets them apart in this competitive industry. Working in conjunction with Pepper’s full-service Intellectual Property Department, we advise on matters involving trademark clearance and trademark enforcement as well as protecting other trade secrets, brand materials and label art.


Pepper’s alcohol clients have the benefit of the firm’s nationally ranked Tax Practice. We provide proactive tax planning advice to alcohol clients, including assisting with mergers and acquisitions, dispositions, public offerings, reorganizations, restructurings, liquidations and structured finance vehicles. Our tax lawyers are well-versed in federal, state and local, and international tax matters and are able to advise clients on issues or tax controversies wherever they may arise.