For the second year in a row, Gov. David Paterson’s executive budget calls for allowing grocery and drug stores to sell wine. In 2009, the proposal died on the vine, but its chances could be better this time around.
This is so for a couple of reasons. First, New York’s fiscal crisis has grown even more dire, and the governor estimates that expanded wine sales would generate more than $90 million this year in licensing fees.
Second, Mr. Paterson’s plan has been modified to win over liquor store owners. The revised proposal would allow liquor stores to sell directly to restaurants and other retailers, put an ATM on premises and open more than one store. In addition, they would be able to sell food items and other products that now are off-limits for them.
Some liquor store owners remain staunchly opposed to expanded wine sales. Banding together under the Last Store on Main Street banner, they claim to be the defenders of small business in New York.
In fact, they represent a small minority of the state’s small businesses. And for mom-and-pop grocers in the nearly 600 communities that lack a liquor store, the law that currently restricts wine sales to liquor stores and wineries is a harmful restraint on their trade.
New York’s wineries and more than 1,000 grape-growing farms in particular stand to gain from expanding wine sales to grocery stores and drugstores. Hence the support of the New York Wine Industry Association and the New York State Wine Grape Growers, in addition to Wegmans Food Markets Inc. and other grocery store businesses.
Along with the reasons why Mr. Paterson’s plan could win passage this year, there is one important reason why it should: Most consumers want grocery stores and drugstores to be able to sell wine. In this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap poll on the topic, roughly two-thirds of respondents favored the move.
Why wouldn’t they? It would mean greater convenience and product variety.
You can’t say the governor’s proposal is a bold one-35 other states already allow wine sales in grocery stores-but it certainly has common sense on its side. It’s time to pour this unjustified prohibition down the drain.
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