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Let Wegmans sell wine

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.

2/12/10 (c) 2010 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.


  1. Since Wegmans made this a budget and financing issue rather that a legislative & regulation issue, I think we need to review other issues at hand. Those issues would be Wegmans continued misbehavior as it comes to paying taxes and its use of taxpayer dollars.

    Below is a transcript of the damage Wegmans is having on the NYS economy:


    The investigative report aired on PBS Radio. The claim is that Wegmans received $204 million in taxpayer funded financing with their consideration being job creation. The report from David Cay Johnston determined that Wegmans created one full-time job as a result of the tax break, not living up to their obligations. This behavior is not limited to Wegmans, but everyone taking the free pork under Empire Zones.

    More troubling is how the grocery store executives utilize lobbying for personal financial benefit. One of the leaders trying to reign in the “Death Tax” is the Wegmans family. Despite media accounts of banging drums, reports show only 18 families are petition Washington to not have to pay their fair share of taxes. Here’s the report:


    Noted special in the report, the Wegman family actually applies the lobbying cost to not have to pay personal taxes to their business. They are one of only two companies doing this. If you put two and two together, that seems to suggest we are paying an extra nickel for bread and milk to pay for the Wegman family’s efforts to not have to pay their fair share of taxes.

    I am all for Wegmans selling wine as soon as they address these major issues. The $90M is a short-term pitance. Wegmans needs to commit to long-term fixes to the economy or they get nothing more. Taxpayers are subsidizing the profits of Wegmans and enough is enough.

    The Rochester Business Journal did nothing more than provide an advertorial here. Let’s do some investigative reporting next time. If I can find these links so easily online, imagine what you can do to shed light on the inappropriate tax kickbacks that Wegmans receives that are undeserving.

  2. Every employee of Wegmans I know loves working for them. I love shopping there. They offer quality of life to employees and shoppers. Taking points, above, out of context sounds like the liquor lobby scaring the public into believing thousands of jobs will be lost if wine can also be sold in food stores.

    Remember, all taxpayers subsidize liquor stores by paying additional across-the-board taxes rather than letting the food stores, who are willing to pay license fees and consumers who want to enjoy wine with their food, provide revenue to state and local governments.

    In the states that allow the sale of wine in food stores, wine and spirit stores thrive by providing more than just alcohol – other services and merchandise. The Governor”s proposal would allow that in NYS so liquor stores could attract new cliental.

    The wine industry keeps thousands of many different businesses – gas stations, hotels, restaurants, small grocery stores, truckers, and others – in business and is a mainstay of tourism throughout the state. The whole NY economy will take another downturn if this core, production industry continues to be shut out of local markets in cities and towns.

    If consumers want wine sold in food stores you must contact your state senator and assembly person and let them know. They need to hear from you in February.

  3. I have a copy of the text of the governor’s budget in front of me open to the wine in grocery pages….
    While being able to buy your merlot in the same store you buy your roast beef makes all the sense in the world…after reading this bill in detail, I am convinced it is turkey.
    It lets 16 year-olds sell wine and beer to their (21??yr-old) friends as long as there is an 18 year-old somewhere in the grocery store.
    It allows liquor stores to collude on setting prices they pay NY Wineries.
    It allows groceries to sell wine at a loss to promote consumption (with 16- and 18-year-olds at the helm).
    Now liquor stores have to pay their bill within 30 days. Under this bill Liquor stores and Wegmans can pay small NY wineries whenever they want. If the wineries complain, they’re out!
    If you are a NY winery and want to sell wine to a chain store near you, you’ll need to get on a plane and try to get an appointment in Arkansas, Rochester, Buffalo, Boston, Cincinnati, Woonsocket or wherever the chain’s owner de jour is located. Then if you’re lucky you’ll have to get a slot in one of their warehouses in New Jersey and hope than somehow your wine finds its way back to your neighbohood grocery store.
    The NY State liquor authority has the legal tools and staff to regulate 2500 liquor stores all owned by local NY State individuals. It is totally unequiped legally, understaffed and unprepared to oversee 10,000+ grocery, drug and convenience stores many open 24/7 and their 16- and 18-year-old staff.

    If you’re going to endorse something, for pity sake, read it first!

  4. To Put It Simply:
    Most people need to shop at the supermarket.
    A little wine is good for your heart.
    Wegmans will put good wine in their stores.
    It will be good for New York and its farmers/wineries.

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