It’s a fact of life in New York: If you’re looking to buy a bottle of bubbly or a magnum of merlot, you’ve got to make a special trip to a liquor store.
But that might be about to change.
Albany is making a big push to let supermarkets sell wine.
As budget balancing proposals go, this one is easy to swallow for Gov. David Paterson, and goes down well with many consumers, too.”I guess competition doesn’t hurt,” one woman said inside a local liquor store.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it. I really don’t,” another customer said.
Allowing supermarkets, and food stores to sell wine would net the state nearly $160 million in licensing revenues in the first two years and help these retailers in a tough economy.
“It would be good for supermarkets, particularly in New York city, because we have been losing supermarkets, 300 in the last five years,” said Richard Lipsky of Gristedes.
And supermarket operators say increased competition would save consumers some $80 million.
But the plan has liquor store owners like Gary Wartels of Skyview Wines in Riverdale seeing red.
“I just want to point out to you if this bill passes, to my right is a Food Emporium, to my left is another small kosher market, both of whom would be eager to start selling wines,” Wartels said.
Wartels also said it could put many of the state’s more than 2,700 liquor stores out of business.
It’s not just liquor store profits that are at issue. Wartels’ store employs 11 people and the owner told CBS 2 HD if the bill passes, some of these jobs could be at risk.
It’s yet another blow to local retail, Wartels said.
“All this would do is take sales from my store, a small community retailer and move it over to a large corporate store like Food Emporium,” Wartels said.
And law enforcement groups said it would lead to more drunk-driving fatalities.
The supermarkets are trying to make the idea more palatable by promising they will promote wines grown in New York state vineyards like one in the Hudson Valley.
But master vintner Francesco Ciummo of Demarest Hill Winery in Warwick is not buying it.
“It’s not good for the winery or the liquor store,” Ciummo said.
He said supermarkets would eat into his sales, too.
It all proves – setting budgets – like enjoying fine wine – is a subjective experience.
The issue of selling wine in grocery stores is expected to be voted on by state legislators next month. If it passes, New York will become the 36th state in the country to allow it.