NY market wine-sales proponent explains his plan

This week, the New York State Legislature is expected to take up the topic of wine sales in supermarkets once again.

Thanks to legislation being introduced by Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Monroe County (Rochester/Finger Lakes area), shown at right, the debate will be broadened to take into account opposition to such legislation by liquor store owners and others.

An earlier proposal by Gov. David Paterson fizzled out in the face of strong opposition and lack of protections for current wine sellers, primarily liquor store owners who expressed fears they would be driven out of business by expanded competition, particularly from major companies whose reach is much wider than their self-described "mom and pop" status.

I discussed the new approach with Morelle, who said he felt the governor's proposal did nothing to help liquor store owners and did not address drinking-safety concerns for others.

"The concerns are not trivial," Morelle said, "but we cannot remain stuck in a business model created in 1920 when the size of wine industry we now have could not have been foreseen.

"There are only 2,500 sales outlets for the state's 19 million people, and the number of liquor stores gets smaller each year. That does nothing to help nurture our expanding wine industry which is an important part of the state's agricultural picture. We're now the third-largest grower of grapes in the nation, but it is difficult to adequately supply New York wines to consumers because of the limited number of sales outlets."

Morelle listed the main points of his plan:

• More than one liquor store license could be owned by an individual or company. They now are limited to a single location.
• Liquor store owners would be allowed to make purchases on a cooperative basis, thus allowing them to get best-price deals based on larger volume.
• Liquor stores would be able to sell directly to restaurants and taverns of less than 1,000 square feet.
• A medallion system would be put in place to freeze the number of licenses, then allow a small increase in the number each year.
• A product list would be created by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to allow sales at liquor stores of such things as food items, gift bags, T-shirts, etc., all of which now are prohibited.
• Anyone purchasing any kind of alcoholic beverage would have to provide proof of legal age.

"Our current legislative session runs through the end of June, so I'm not sure how far we'll get with this, but it should expand and energize the discussion," Morelle said. "It's not a small matter and we need to fix it in a fair, thorough way to give more business people an even break."

How open is the wine country politician to discussion?

"I'll talk to anyone with any point of view," he said. "No one wants to hurt anyone, but we can't keep going in this archaic structure. The experience of other states that allow wine sales in supermarkets shows a huge increase in revenues for the state, jobs being created on a variety of levels, and better opportunities for many more people."

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Ed Draves said...

From the article, it sounds like the Assemblyman wants the Wine retailers to be more like convenience store owners as a source of revenue due to the loss of bulk brands to big grocery.

I don't think that model will work very well as many places already are saturated with such stores and the wine shops built their
business model according to existing rules and regulations.

The most troubling part of the plan is there is no provision for the local, boutique wineries that would suffer once the outlets that sell their wines are replaced by big grocery interest and their bulk wine aisles selling wine next to the Bud Light and Coors.

It is time to stand up for small business and local wine and tell the big grocery lobby to take a seat!

iknowtruthismine said...

It is a BAD idea. The bean counters who run grocery stores are going to have to find space on the shelves for the cheap, mostly boxed wine-like substances they are apt to sell to the most number of the general masses.

To accomplish this, I’m sure they are going to get rid of the last vestiges of quality (but slower selling) beer, making me have to travel an inordinately inconvenient distance when I want a bottle of lousy dark bitter suds.

It will also be easier for the under-aged to steal or buy if it is in the more highly trafficked food stores.

Ed Draves said...

Horrible news for our wineries. Big grocery will snap up the bulk brands and close an (estimated) third of the outlets that sell NY wine. No wonder an overwhelming amount of wineries are against it. It is time to stand up for the little guy (wine shops and wineries) against big grocery and out of state interests!

Fred said...

Even if it fails, they should allow wine stores to sell crackers, cheese and other associated items. T-shirts are a no brainer, but they are usually a loser, so who would want them?

Who in the grocery store is going to be knowledgeable about wines? Oh, it’s that 17-year-old kid they just hired.

dbysm said...

All this would do is take sales from my store, a small community retailer and move it over to a large corporate store.

On another note, picture this video if it was wine instead of seafood. Just picture the underage kids trying this. Also, now that many wines have the screw caps instead of a cork, it would be so easy for anyone to open the wine in the stores and take a sip, including the employees. This has happened in other states. Seafood thieves try to strike again at http://www.wten.com/Global/story.asp?s=10309817

Elizabeth said...

I am firmly in favor of this positive change. Any beverage that contains calories qualifies as “food” whether it be beer, wine, Coca Cola, gin, whiskey, lemonade or any other beverage. There is no reason why these beverages should not be sold in grocery stores.

I lived in California for fourteen years. Most supermarkets and drug stores there sell wine and liquor as well as beer. There are still small liquor stores and specialty wine shops as well as large beverage supply outlets and large discount liquor and wine stores. Perhaps we should try emulating that model.

After enjoying that convenience as a consumer in California for so long, it seems ridiculous to me that one can only buy beer in a grocery store or supermarket here, but can only buy wine or liquor in a liquor store. Why can’t one buy beer in a liquor store?

I recall seeing a lot of silly petitions in wine and liquor shops saying that “Wine is not food.” Is beer food? Is Coca Cola food? I say anything that contains calories is food, because it can be consumed and the calories expended as energy.

Surely there is a way to allow the sale of wine and liquor in grocery stores without putting small wine and liquor stores out of business. These laws and regulations are extremely antiquated and need to be replaced.