Widespread support quickly formed up this week after New York Gov. David Paterson unveiled his proposed Executive Budget that calls for allowing wine sales in supermarkets. The details in his proposal appear to make up for some of the objections by liquor store owners to a pending bill now before the State Legislature.
The state's ongoing search for new revenues is tied to potential taxes to be paid on such expanded sales. The governor's office has estimated potential annual revenue of $147 million for the state.
The group New Yorkers for Growth and Open Markets, a statewide coalition of advocates seeking liquor law changes, has praised Paterson's proposed FY2011 Executive Budget for including the "Wine Industry and Liquor Store Revitalization Act."
The Paterson version expands on last summer's proposal by Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Monroe County, and State Senator Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, that still is pending. That bill, titled the "Wine Industry and Liquor Store Revitalization Act," is sponsored by 36 legislators from across the state. It is intended to address criticism from liquor store owners fearful that large chain markets would severely hurt their base.
Among the additions the Paterson proposal would make:
• Eliminate Prohibition-era restrictions by allowing liquor store owners to expand their product offerings to include such items as wine accessories and snack foods, something they're currently prohibited from selling.
• Increase the number of stores that may be owned, thereby lifting the current on-license-per-company limit.
• Allow the sale of wine in those outlets currently licensed to sell beer. That would open up significant new markets for wineries.
New Yorkers for Growth and Open Markets is comprised of New York State wineries, grape growers, liquor stores, business organizations, grocers and farmers advocating for comprehensive changes to the state's antiquated liquor laws that will result in increased consumer choice and opportunities for economic growth.
Some comments from various industry spokespersons in favor of the proposal:
• Scott Osborn, president of the New York Wine Industry Association: "We are grateful to the Governor for his continued leadership on an issue that is so critical to the sustainability and growth of the New York wine industry. The inclusion of the much needed reforms for our partners, the liquor stores, makes this a comprehensive revitalization package we whole heartedly support."
Bob Demeo, a liquor store owner in Troy, NY, for nearly 30 years: "After last year's wine in grocery store proposal included nothing to help liquor stores, we said to Albany, 'Fix the liquor laws, make this work for our industry too, and give us a chance to compete on a level playing field.' And you know what? They listened. The fact is that there are liquor store owners in New York who support sensible changes like these that can improve our businesses and enhance our bottom line."
Jim Bedient, president, New York State Wine Grape Growers: "[We] join together with our fellow small business partners around the state in applauding Governor Paterson for his commitment to the growth and development of the grape-growing and wine community in New York. Allowing for the sale of wine in food stores will create new jobs and new revenue for our state while providing greater consumer choice for all New Yorkers. New York is home to more than 1,000 grape growing farms and over 270 wineries who welcome the opportunity to place their product in new retail markets. Governor Paterson's proposal will continue to help our growers, vintners and wineries rejuvenate our industry and restore New York to one of the premier wine and grape producing states in the nation."
Dean Norton, president, New York Farm Bureau, the advocacy group for family farmers: "New York Farm Bureau has long supported allowing wine in grocery stores, as well as modernizing the liquor laws so that retail liquor stores can also succeed. Our organization stands behind the Governor and his thoughtful consideration of this important economic development initiative for New York's growing wine and grape sector," said the state's largest agricultural advocacy organization for family farmers."
Heather Briccetti, vice president of government affairs of The Business Council of New York State: "The sale of wine in grocery stores will help New York's wine industry, grape growers while producing new revenue for the state. The current proposal will also help liquor stores compete in the marketplace. This plan will create jobs and increase economic activity in New York."
Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association: "New York State has had a long-standing need to update its liquor laws, and this comprehensive approach will go a long way toward modernizing an antiquated system. Not only will it help liquor stores, wineries and grape growers, but other small businesses such as restaurant or tavern owners are likely to benefit as well – and the more we can support small businesses, the better the economic outlook will be for all New Yorkers."
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