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In its lawsuit, Pernod Ricard argues Missouri franchise law doesn’t apply to its agreements with Major Brands or Glazer’s because sales of its products at either distributor are no more than 6 percent of their total sales — not enough to constitute a “community of interest,” according to Pernod Ricard.

Constellation also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A FLURRY OF LAWSUITS In other cases, alcohol suppliers are the ones filing lawsuits against distributors.

In January, New York-based Pernod Ricard USA sued its two Missouri distributors, Major Brands and Glazer’s Midwest, seeking court approval to terminate agreements with both companies.

In Missouri, the Franchise Act was amended in 1975 to clarify that liquor distributors’ relationships with their suppliers were deemed franchises. That ruling — which was affirmed last year by the 8th U. Circuit Court of Appeals — prompted distributors, including Major Brands, to support legislation last year to rewrite Missouri law to make it more difficult for suppliers to terminate their relationships with distributors.

But in recent years, legal efforts to challenge distributors’ status as franchisees have intensified, as suppliers seek to consolidate the number of distributors they use across the country to cut costs. But the legislation was vetoed by Nixon in July, in part, because of a potential negative impact on the state’s wine growers.

“It’s a type of legislation that’s anti-consumer, anti-competitive and violates the spirit of free enterprise,” said Ben Jenkins, the group’s vice president of government communications.

The trade group contends that spirits are vastly different than franchises such as Dairy Queen or Mc Donald’s restaurants because alcohol distributors distribute hundreds of other brands from competitors.

While the litigation unfolds, Missouri lawmakers are renewing efforts to change state liquor laws to help local distributors, a year after similar legislation was vetoed by Gov. CONSOLIDATION After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the three-tier distribution system was created. The court reasoned that a franchise relationship didn’t exist because Shelton hadn’t granted Missouri Beverage the use of its trademarks.