Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crying in Their Beer, er, Wine

The "Retail Alliance," the group advocating on behalf of the liquor store monopoly came to Albany yesterday with its Chicken Little act: "If the legislation passes, roughly 1,000 liquor stores will close, causing between 4,000 and 5,000 jobs to be lost, predicted Jeff Saunders, president of state Retail Alliance. "We feel that if one bottle of wine is sold in a supermarket, that's one bottle that comes from our stores," Saunders said. "At a time when the unemployment is at the highest rate ever in the history, why would anyone want to do anything to add to those numbers? We don't know."

This is all just sheer hogwash. The monopolists are claiming that this is all a verifiable zero-sum game, when the facts on the ground in all other states demonstrates the exact opposite-and if the only way to protect these stores is to maintain an anti-consumer monopoly, than there's something drastically wrong with this industry.

But it beggars the imagination to see how anyone could predict a loss of 5,000 jobs if the wine measure goes through. If a supermarket sells wine, the employment in that outlet will-along with its sales-increase; and if the liquor retail niche will lose 40% of its stores because of competition, what does that really say about them?

And what to make of this? "But representatives from the wine industry and state law enforcement officials are concerned about the social and financial repercussions of the legislation.
They warned that shoppers would buy wine in supermarkets where it is cheaper than in liquor stores, and it wouldn't necessarily be New York wines."

So the monopoly admits that there is a cost to the consumer inherent in its perpetuation. Not the greatest rallying cry, is it? We can just see the sign now: "Support liquor stores if you want higher wine prices." Legislators should see through all of this self serving hyperbole and pass the pro-consumer measure that gives people real choice, while helping the state in its hour of budgetary need.