Liquor stores in New York are warning lawmakers to not sponsor a measure that would allow grocery stores to sell wine, warning the proposal would have "catastrophic" consequences.
The letter comes as two lawmakers have proposed the measure, which has stalled for years in Albany and as state officials are weighing a broader set of measures to address liquor and alcohol regulations.
Under the measure backed by Assemblymember Pamela Hunter and state Sen. Liz Krueger, the sale of wine would be expanded to grocery stores. "Big box" stores like Walmart or Target would not be permitted to sell wine, and neither would convenience stores, gas stations and drug stores.
“I have been championing this issue – allowing consumers to buy wine in their local grocery stores – for many years. When friends come to visit from places like Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, or DC, they’re often dismayed to discover the law won’t let them buy wine in the grocery store,” Krueger said. “But it’s time to change that this year.”
Lawmakers have framed the issue as a matter of consumer choice, and one that can further the state's wine industry.
“Consumers want the convenience of purchasing wine in grocery stores – where they buy their food and other beverages, such as beer. It’s good for consumers and it’s good for a critical New York industry,” Hunter said. “Upstate New York – like the East End of Long Island – has so many vineyards and wineries, both old and new, that would benefit from being able to sell and promote their New York products in grocery stores across the state.”
But liquor stores are once again pushing back as they have in the past.
A consortium of liquor stores and advocacy organizations this week sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to not sign on in support of the legislation.
"This misguided idea has been raised and rejected many times for good reason," they wrote in the letter. "Weakening the law to allow wine in grocery stores will devastate our small community businesses, increase underage drinking, contribute to premature deaths, and help Amazon/Whole Foods and other large multinational corporations in their effort to monopolize the wine & spirits market."
At the same time, the stores argue the measure would be more beneficial to large national wine brands and small businesses would suffer.
"If this were to pass, smaller liquor stores would never be able to compete on such a tilted playing field while massive chain grocers dominate the alcohol market," they wrote.