Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Governor Paterson's budget proposal could expand New York wine sales

So just saw this Newsday article in the daily wine news logs. This is really pretty big news.

For those of you not intimately familiar with the NY beer, wine, and liquor licensing laws, here's a quick overview: in NY, you can buy beer in a grocery store, but not wine or liquor. You can only buy wine and liquor in a special wine/liquor store. And some of those stores, like mine, are only licensed to sell wine. Oh, and in theory, one corporation/individual can only hold 1 license in the entire state of New York.

But now NY needs to raise a bit of cash to balance the budget, and one of Governor Patterson's proposals to do so is to allow stores currently licensed to sell beer to also sell wine. For practical purposes, this means grocery stores, and in NY City, the ubiquitous corner bodega.

Now something like this is generally seen as bad for the independent retailers...because if someone can buy their wine at a grocery store, why would they want to buy it from me? This is why retailers generally bitch and moan in any state when a proposal like this surfaces. And even though I know my store benefits from the current laws, it’s hard for me to rally behind what is essentially an anti-competitive system. While I certainly don’t want the big Whole Foods around the block selling wine, I'd like to think that my thoughtful selection and great customer service can hold their own if it comes to that.

What I don’t buy is that the expansion of wine sales will benefit local wineries. I’ve been in too many grocery stores to believe that it will do anything but benefit big, commercial brands. You think a big grocery chain is going to happily take delivery from some Finger Lakes winemaker who drops off you order in a pick-up truck sometime a week or two after you place it? Probably not so much.

So let’s not pretend this will benefit smaller local wineries. That’s probably just wishful thinking.

Yes, this will raise revenues for the state because more stores will be paying an additional wine licensing fee. And yes, it’s a good thing for the consumer because to not be able to buy wine where you buy food is sort of silly. And yes, it will make it more difficult for wine/liquor only retailers to make a buck – we’ll have to up our game, which is also a good thing for wine retailers.

So even though it makes my specific wine store business more challenging, it’s a good thing for the wine industry in general so I’m essentially for it……WITH TWO BIG QUESTIONS!!

1. As a licensed wine store, will I now be allowed to sell beer? Only fair.

2. If big grocery corporations can now sell wine in multiple licensed locations, shouldn’t I, or rather my corporation, be allowed to sell wine in multiple locations? Only fair.

This questions may already have been answered in the proposed legislation, which honestly, I haven’t read. But I think I may need to contact my local representative, whoever that is. I’m all for competition…level playing fields and so on…as long as I’m not stuck in the outfield.

1 comment:

Anne-Claire said...

Hi Christy

Love your post abour the new legislation ! I continue t read your blog and I have to say I am learning a lot about wine business ! More than I did at MH ! Right now I an falling in love with Spanish Wines which are surprisingly pretty good !
Will be in Ny in April and will stop by,

Anne-Claire