Great moments in governance

New York State's convoluted, outdated and otherwise embarassingly pathetic regulation of the sales of wine, beer and spirits continually serves up examples of things that need to be fixed.

The latest came in Henrietta, a suburb of Rochester, where the state says Mike Palmeri's Marketview Liquor store committed an unforgiveable, unthinkable and inhuman act.

It sold wine gift bags.

Oh, the humanity!

Palmeri is allowed, as a duly licensed vassal of the Empire State government, to sell wine. And wine glasses. And wine bottle stoppers. And wine corkscrews. But, it is prohibited from selling a gift bag to put the stuff in. If you do that, Palmeri has learned, you're in line for a $10,000 fine for running a second business! -- according to the ludicrously inept State Liquor Authority.

He could, I theorize, have given the bags away and probably tacked an additional charge on some of the other items he's allowed to sell as a way of making up the difference.

Palmeri told WSYR-TV he had no idea the law existed.

“I was incredulous, and I took everything down. I stopped doing it," says Palmeri, a standup guy who says he doesn't blame the state because "ignorance of the law is no excuse. It's like saying you didn't know what the speed limit was. I violated the statute. I think it's pretty ridiculous, but the state needs money so they're looking for every possible way of getting it."

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Bill Crowley said...

Mr. Dowd,

I just read your blog from December 25th and wanted to let you know that the original story stating that the SLA fined the Marketview $10,000 was not accurate. The liquor store was charged on 12/1/08 for operating a second business (i.e. for selling items not permitted under the law).

The liquor store has pleaded not guilty and is entitled to a hearing. After the hearing, the case will be sent to the members of the SLA to determine a penalty (if any). The Members look at the severity of the violation as well as the history of the licensee when making such determination. In this case, the licensee has no prior violations.

I also wanted to add that the SLA’s resources are focused on matters like underage drinking, violent establishments, sales to intoxicated patrons, etc. As evidence of this, in the last 5 years, we have charged 9 establishments with “running a second business”, all due to complaints, and most with other serious violations.

This is an update (and correction) from Channel 13 [Rochester] that originally ran the story: http://www.13wham.com/content/news/political/story/Liquor-Authority-Clarifies-Position-On-Wine-Gift/RehXMS76F0i6S3kWFDEg1g.cspx

Bill Crowley
Director of Communications
New York State Liquor Authority

William M. Dowd said...

Mr. Crowley:

Thank you for the note. However, a closer reading of my posting does not say that the store was fined. It said it would be in line for a $10,000 fine for running a second business if the SLA ruling stands up.

However, in the interest of fairness, I’ll add your message to the posting for readers to see.

Bill Crowley said...

One additional thing, $10,000 is the maximum fine for a violation of the ABC Law. There is no way this establishment would receive a fine anywhere near
this, whether the charges hold up or not.