Arizona’s Three-Tier Distribution System

beer producerTier 1 is composed of the producers – the makers of the beer, wine and spirit beverage alcohol products enjoyed by millions of responsible, adult Arizonans.


beer distributor delivering beerTier 2 is composed of the distributors – the wholesalers who buy these products from producers and sell and distribute these products to retailers.


beer distributor

Tier 3
is composed of the retailers who sell these products to the public.



This system was born out of the end of Prohibition when the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave each state the power to regulate alcohol sales inside its borders. In response to the grant of this authority, all states adopted versions of the 3-tier system.

Under Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes,with the exception of the ability of wineries to ship very limited amounts of product directly into Arizona, the 3-tier system is fully implemented under the state’s regulatory framework for these unique products (i.e., beverage alcohol).

The 3-tier system provides critical benefits on multiple levels, and it should be a priority for Arizona to maintain the integrity of this system.

The critical value point in the 3-tier system is the 2nd tier where distributors ensure product safety, consumer choice, fair competition, an infusion of economic vitality to the state and its communities, product affordability and convenience.

Millennials Driving Alcoholic Beverage Trends


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Craft Beer Expanding Faster Than Any Time Since Prohibition Ended

We love craft beer, and we're not afraid to talk your ear off about it. It turns out, we're not alone. According to the Brewers Association, there are now 2,126 craft breweries in the U.S., more than there have been since 1890. This number includes 350 new breweries that have opened since June 2011 alone. Guys, we get it -- you want more beer.

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Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control

BWDA lauds the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control for issuing a new Wholesale Licensee Industry Practices Advisory, which provides needed clarity and consistency in the interpretation of current state liquor regulations ...

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What We Support and Why

Sale Signs

What is our stance? We want to stop efforts to de-regulate the sale and marketing of alcohol. Because alcohol is not an ordinary commodity such as tires or mayonnaise, it must be sold with care and restraint. Examples in other parts of the world demonstrate that alcohol and the "free marketplace" are a bad mix because they produce major social problems.

Why do we need it? Since the 1980's de-regulation of business has become a popular by-word. It is seen as a way to invigorate business and facilitate the benefits of a nationalized or globalized marketplace. However, as we have seen with the recent mortgage meltdown, an unregulated marketplace is not without problems. Such problems are even greater with alcohol, as increased purchasing and consumption can produce a great deal of social harm. Nevertheless, there are very active efforts to deregulate the sale and marketing of alcohol. Deregulation advocates claim that our current marketplace regulations are "antiquated" and should be eliminated.

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Product safety – Beverage alcohol is a unique product, and it is important to “know what’s in that bottle.” Thanks to the middle tier, those companies licensed to distribute are importers of record who provide for inspection, traceability and the ability for recall of substandard product. Public safety demands a system that works to protect consumers from inferior and dangerous beverage alcohol products.

Consumer Choice, Fair Competition and Product Affordability – Because distributors buy a wide variety of products in large quantities, consumers are afforded choices of products at reasonable prices that simply would not exist if individual retailers were forced to take shipments directly – absorbing higher costs for lower volume as well as high shipping rates.

The exception may be “big box” stores that buy in larger quantities, but the untenable trade-off is that those retailers often tend to carry a very limited variety, ignoring specialty brands that do not move off the shelves in voluminous quantities.

This also highlights the notion of fair competition. Distributors that provide for variety at reasonable cost allow producers (the 1st tier) to get their products to the consumers who want to enjoy them and give smaller specialty retailers the opportunities to compete.

Economic Vitality and Stability – Because distributors deliver choice, affordability and competition, they provide an enormous amount of economic vitality and stability across Arizona. They give both smaller producers and retailers a chance to succeed in the marketplace. The competition that is fostered is an significant boon to the overall economic health in the industry and generally.

Just as important are the jobs and economic stimulation the distributors’ businesses create within the communities they serve. They also provide advertising dollars which are the lifeblood for many other businesses in the area.

Convenience – This benefit created by the 2nd tier in the 3-tier system is really a by-product of what has already been mentioned. Without the opportunities for success provided by distributors, the smaller neighborhood family-run stores would disappear. Consumers would not be able to “run down to the corner” to quickly get what they want. Communities would also lose the uniqueness and sense of place these local stores provide.

In recognition that beverage alcohol products are unique in the marketplace, and in consideration for the great number of tangible safeguards and benefits provided by distributors, it is clear that the merits of Arizona’s 3-tier system should be applauded and its framework kept intact.

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