Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wining on Main Street

Crain's is reporting that the state's package stores have launched a grass roots PR effort to keep wine as their exclusive product: "Some 2,700 liquor store owners on Wednesday formed a coalition called The Last Store on Main Street to lobby state legislators. The group claims that 1,000 small businesses, representing 4,000 jobs, would fail if food stores are allowed to sell wine. The organization is also making the case to associations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving that teenagers would have greater access to alcohol if wine were sold in supermarkets."

Well, what's wrong with a little competition? And, as far as the last store standing rhetoric is concerned, this sounds a bit overheated to us. Certainly, box stores selling wine in NYC won't kill the main street liquor stores-because we won't let that many of them in; and if the local C-Town or Key Food can sell wine, then those are Main Street Stores just like any local liquor store is. As we told Crain's: "The grocery industry maintains that liquor stores’ position is protectionism at its worst. “Why should anyone have a monopoly on the product?” said Richard Lipsky, a spokesman for small supermarkets in the city."

A position that was underscored by the National Supermarket Association, the group that represents Hispanic-owned independents: "According to the National Supermarket Association, fewer than 10 states forbid allow wine sales in grocery stores—a proposal to reverse that in Massachusetts failed to pass last year. Neighboring New Jersey allows wine sales in food stores, and there is no dearth of liquor shops in that state, said Nelson Eusebio, executive director of the National Supermarket Association, located in Queens. “The person who leaves his home to buy a bottle of wine is going to a liquor store,” said Mr. Eusebio. “We don’t feel that grocery stores will interfere with that [decision].”

The real issue here is the cost of the license; and to counteract the "Coalition" argument, there is a need to insure that the bill is cost effective for smaller stores-and let's not forget the 400 beverage centers that service so many neighborhoods and towns. It appears to us, that this is one monopoly that has lasted for way too long.