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Wine In Grocery Stores Idea Is Back

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Utica, NY (WIBX) – New York State would benefit financially and see job growth if legislation was passed allowing grocery stores to sell wine, according to a study released Thursday.

I know, you’ve heard this before.

“It comes up every single year,” said Greg Gorea, a co-owner at Seneca Wine and Liquor, when asked about the issue. “The thing that’s different this time is, this year, we don’t have a governor that’s for it. Governor [Andrew] Cuomo has already come out against it. He’s said he doesn’t want a gimmick like this to come up and hurt thousands of locally owned businesses.” 

A study released today by Archstone Consulting says it would also boost the state’s wine industry. Local liquor store owners WIBX spoke to aren’t buying it, though.

The study found the proposal would increase the state’s gross domestic product by about $800-million in year one and almost $1-billion by year five.

Archstone Consulting contends the proposal will bring more than $71-million in tax revenue to the state and more than $346-million in franchise fees for one year. The study also says in the first year following a passage of the proposed bill, New York could see the addition of nearly 6,400 jobs within wine and other related industries, with an expected increase to more than 7,600  jobs after five years.

Scott Osborn, president of the New York Wine Industry Association, agrees, saying with more places to purchase wine, one of the State’s largest industries could grow.

“New York currently ranks fourth in the U.S. for wine production and eleventh in domestic wine sales. Fifteen years ago, we were number two in wine production and number two in domestic wine sales.”

Kevin Hughes of City Liquors says only a few New York wineries would actually benefit, the top three or four.

“But, the small wineries that rely on distribution through our liquor stores, they’re gonna go nowhere. The shelves in these grocery stores are gonna be filled with low-cost alternatives from South America, Argentina, Australia and California. The top [sellers] in the world,” Hughes said.

Gorea said he speaks with New York wineries on daily basis. “They call me up and say “listen, I’ve got this great wine, I’d like you to put it on your shelf and see how it does.” That’s not gonna happen if Walmart and Wegman’s take over the market.”

Their belief that the vast majority of state wineries wouldnt’ benefit is part of the reason both Gorea and Hughes dispute the job growth numbers. Hughes said it could be ‘a wash’ when you factor in the jobs lost when liquor stores start closing.

Both also don’t think the state will generate the projected revenue from licensing fees that grocery stores would have to pay in order to sell wine. Hughes said those projection ‘aren’t real numbers.’ Hughes added that he has an email from Neil Golub of Price Chopper who indicated he wouldn’t be willing to pay a large licensing fee for such a priviledge.

Gorea says that’s because the license is based on overall store volume, even customers who aren’t shopping for wine, he said.

The study found, currently, 2,400 locations in New York sell wine, but if the proposal is accepted and passed, that number could rise to Archstone’s estimate of nearly 8,700 stores. With added competition and better store selection, the prices of wine sold may decrease between 1 and 2 percent, perhaps more in the long-run.

Released by New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Markets, the legislation also lobbies for looser restrictions on what liquor stores may sell and the amount of liquor stores that an owner may operate.

“[Currently] I can’t sell potatoe chips, nor do I want to. I can’t sell beer, nor do I want to,” Gorea said. “The problem is, our stores don’t have the room. They’re made for wine and liquor. Another problem, a lot of stores like Liquor Loft, Lichtman’s and City Liquors, they’re next-door to a huge grocery store.”

(Story by Jeff Monaski and WIBX intern Gino Geruntino)

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