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06.20.2011

Wine In Grocery Stores? Let's Not Be Hasty

grocery_Store_wine.jpgAs many times as I see Americans blatantly voting against their own self interest it never ceases to amaze me. We are such remarkable creatures, swallowing hook, line, and sinker whatever lies that politicians, lobbyists, and special interest groups cook up for us to feed on in advance of elections.

One of my favorites is currently being trotted out yet again as some rational and consumer-oriented legislators and their constituents try to make it easier for wine lovers to buy a bottle of wine in the state of New York:

" If we let grocery stores sell wine then all the liquor stores will go out of business. "

I don't know what is worse, that there are people who spout this kind of rot, or that there are people who actually believe it.

New York is, of course, a special place, that doesn't operate according to the same rules of the universe like everywhere else in the nation that somehow has managed to sell wine and beer in grocery stores while not destroying the specialty liquor stores. If you listen to the provincial liquor lobby and the politicians they influence, you'd think being able to buy a bottle of wine with your pasta, diapers, and bleach was only marginally worse for business than Prohibition.

C'mon New York. I dare you to do the right thing by consumers and let folks buy wine the way the rest of the civilized world does.

I won't be holding my breath.

Comments (19)

King Krak, All-Seeing, All-Knowing wrote:
06.20.11 at 11:03 PM

If wine could be bought in the grocery, beer sales will decline. Do you think there's a 1% chance that the beer distributors in NY will allow this to occur?

Tommy-Boy wrote:
06.21.11 at 12:27 AM

There are lots of mitigating factors. NY has laws on the books that do not allow liquor/wine stores to sell any food. Not to mention beer cannot be sold in liquor/wine stores.

Coming from the Finger Lakes, I know from speaking with many winery owners that they would prefer grocery stores to not sell wine. Most of their wine is sold through small business wine stores. If big grocery chains sell wine, they would predominantly carry major/mass produced brands to the detriment of the local producers.

Would this suggested law allow for more people to buy wine? Absolutely - but not come without some high costs to the local wineries.

Biovinum wrote:
06.21.11 at 1:55 AM

Why do you worry about this? Grocery stores will sell mass produced wines on a low price level. The good wines will only be sold together with expert advice and tastings in wine stores. So we can find it in europe

RorbertN wrote:
06.21.11 at 5:50 AM

If they were serious about convenience for citizens why not allow grocery stores to sell liquor too? I say allow the grocery stores to buy out all the wine and liquor stores and sell both. That way everyone gets what they want.
Also, NYS politicians do not make a strong case except to focus on the one time fee paid by grocery stores. People in NYS are smart enough to know that money will be quickly gone and not much to show for.

1WineDude wrote:
06.21.11 at 6:04 AM

This action will also horribly mutate the human gene pool. Just sayin'.

Tom wrote:
06.21.11 at 6:24 AM

DC has used liquor licenses as a way to entice more grocery stores to open in the city -- they are exempt from virtually every regulation that other liquor businesses have to follow. Most of the supermarkets do carry predominately the mass-market stuff, but there are some stores that have set up good wine departments with interesting selections at a cost far below what you'd see in a local wine store. There will definitely be a cost to local wine stores and wineries. And it's true, I'd be thrilled if I could get liquor in my local grocery store -- but since liquor can't be sold on Sundays in DC they're not going to allow that here, at least not yet.

06.21.11 at 7:11 AM

Local legislation, special interests, mitigating factors, and New York's "uniqueness" are all distractions which do little to counter Alder's very simple and salient point: the rest of the US seems to do just fine with wine in grocery stores.

Local retailers haven't gone out of business. Specialty liquor stores still exist. Underage drinkers don't have any more access to booze. Regional wineries still sell product worth buying. And consumers have more access to a broader selection than ever. Hell, my local grocery store has a MW candidate on staff. Hardly the end of the world.

So, why not New York?

Mark wrote:
06.21.11 at 1:44 PM

First of all, there are certainly going to be some wineries which prefer the current system. There are a few which like the state shipping laws the way they are as well. Just because a producer likes the current system, doesn't make it any better of an idea.

It's an interesting discussion, but really one way or another at some point NY is going to join the 21st century and allow sales.

OB wrote:
06.22.11 at 2:20 PM

Alder is right on - the law forbidding New York groceries is arbitrary and no doubt a relic from Prohibition. In Chicago, grocery stores sell wine and liquor, and we have a thriving selection of wine shops. Binny's has huge wine stores, and my local wine shop, In Fine Spirits, stands steps from a grocery giant and less than a mile from at least one other. Consumers are always better served by more options, not fewer. The regulations preventing grocers from selling wine benefit lobbyists, not the public.

Zinner wrote:
06.23.11 at 12:10 AM

Grocery stores in Alabama sell wine with no ill effects. I just found out about a new wine and craft beer shop that will open soon, so that owner is optimistic about our wine scene. A number of wine departments in the grocery stores are like a wine shop within the store with wine consultants on staff and wine tastings in the store. And some do carry (and promote) local Alabama wines.

06.23.11 at 10:22 AM

Jeez, will wine sales in New York supermarkets cause the earth to wobble off its axis, cause massive tectonic plate shifting and just plain raise hell? Nah. Could it possibly weed out marginals who can't stand up to the competition or lack the wherewithal to survive? Maybe. Are the folks who oppose changes in the laws forgetting how Capitalism is supposed to work? Most definitely.

GerryG wrote:
06.25.11 at 7:19 AM

And once the marijuana law is passed will we see it in the lettuce section? Let's just keep moving the line in the sand back and have total free enterprise and capitalism. Get rid of the unions too if we want true capitalism.

David Vergari wrote:
06.25.11 at 5:06 PM

Captitalism is such an emotionally-charged word, no? I expected someone to take the bait and run with it. At any rate, supermarket sales in other States are taking place without the Apocalypse bearing down. Why the concern in NY?

BobC wrote:
06.26.11 at 3:55 PM

As bad as NY is, take a look at most Canadian Provinces for some real nanny state stuff - Ontario for example: With a few exceptions all alcohol has to be retailed only through government owned/operated stores. There are specialized wine stores, but owned and operated by you-know-who. There are brewers retail outlets operated by the Ontario brewers association though beer is retailed in the above mentioned LCBO stores too.

On top of all this, they practice "socially responsible pricing" Can't sell it too low or the alcoholism rate will skyrocket!

Sean Spratt wrote:
06.26.11 at 4:48 PM

Here in NZ they only allowed supermarkets to sell wine & beer starting in 1990. There is a movement now to revoke the sale of wine in grocery stores on the grounds that it will reduce consumption. I'd be curious to see the statistics in the USA for the effect that selling in grocery stores has on consumption.

I am treating this latest move here by the politicians with great skepticism. These are the same politicians who are reluctant to put excise taxes at the point-of-sale and instead put them on the wineries, who in turn simply absorb the cost to remain competitive. The end result being it affects winery profitability and has zero impact on consumption - which is the foundation of the governments argument (to increase excise to reduce consumption).

david pierson wrote:
06.26.11 at 8:33 PM

Oh man, you don't know how lucky you got it in the States.. here in Canada, no booze allowed in our grocery stores... have to go to a gov or private store.. just so stupid...

Herzog wrote:
06.27.11 at 7:14 AM

Whether it's detrimental or beneficial to alcohol-specific stores there's always going to be different situations and regulations because each area will have their power brokers with vested interests who pull strings to their advantage. The general idea that those with lots to lose like the status quo will always be true.

Ed wrote:
06.28.11 at 7:08 AM

In the state of Florida, particularly in tourist areas, you'll occasionally see a sign behind the counter in a small business that says something like, "A 10% surcharge will be added to your total if you tell us how everything is better and cheaper Up North."

Well, I've recently relocated to New York from Florida after a 30-year absence, and I can't believe how the citizens of this state have allowed their Byzantine liquor laws to survive. In Florida (to reverse the joke) I could buy wine and beer on Sunday at 7 A.M. in my local supermarket, the world didn't end, and it was better and cheaper than it is in New York, where I may go to the market, stroll the aisles, wait in line, check out (after paying a 5% penalty/deposit on my beverage containers), then do the same thing all over again in a liquor store if I want a bottle of wine with my steak.

It is for this reason (and many, many other liberty-killing, nanny-state laws and regulations and taxes) that my stay here will be a short one. Do any long-time NYS residents wonder why their state is steadily losing its population and talent to the freer states?

I would add that, just down the street from my supermarket in Florida, there are several thriving liquor stores that sell cigars, gourmet foods, beer and wine as well as distilled spirits. These stores exist in harmony with their supermarket competitors. And every day the sun comes up.

Esshile wrote:
07.18.12 at 4:20 PM

Here in Montana they sell beer and wine in grocery stores and the world rotates just fine. And there are also thriving state run liquor stores.

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