We’ve covered this ground before: DC makes it pretty easy to import alcoholic beverages legally. Tom (with my help) looked at how the law applies to individuals, and now the City Paper’s Young & Hungry blog has covered the commercial side of things. The short version of the rules as they apply to business: pay a reasonable fee, register the purchase, pay the taxes, and you’re good to go. The question is, with rules that lax, why would anybody break them?
How did this come to be? I’ve long suspected that the rules were first engineered by congressmen who wanted to be able to support the distillers, brewers, and vintners in their jurisdictions (although they’re not known for having much trouble breaking their own rules). I think since then the incentives have become all too clear. DC is a small enough market that distributors don’t have enough economy of scale to operate profitably, and the perpetually short-staffed DC government would rather make it easy to comply and pay taxes, instead of having to fund enforcement. Their budget constraints are our gain. Prosit!