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Letting Mass. Grocers Sell Wine Would Save Shoppers Millions: Study

BOSTON -- A study of the Massachusetts Wine at Food Stores Initiative has found that allowing grocery stores to sell wine would save wine shoppers in the state an estimated $26 million to $36 million per year. The initiative is slated for a vote in November.

According to the study, "Likely Economic and Regulatory Effects of the Massachusetts Wine at Food Stores Initiative," information from the 34 other states that already allow grocery stores to sell wine show that supermarkets are as good or better than "package stores," or independent liquor stores, at enforcing minimum drinking age laws, and that wine sales competition from grocery stores doesn't cause package stores to close.

Under a state law dating from 1934, most Massachusetts grocery stores can't obtain a license to sell wine. The Wine at Food Stores Initiative would give town and city officials the option of issuing "wine-at-food-store licenses" to qualified grocery stores. These wine-only licenses would be available to stores stocking the assortment of foods "typically found in a grocery store," including "meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, fresh fruit and produce, baked goods and baking ingredients, canned goods, and dessert items."

The study was prepared by the NorthBridge Group, a Lincoln, Mass.-based national consulting firm, at the request of the Massachusetts Food Association.

Additional findings of the study include:

-- Package stores own the majority of the state's 2,555 existing retail store liquor licenses, and control over 85 percent of off-premises wine sales in Massachusetts.

--As current state law protects the market power and market share of Massachusetts package stores, they can charge higher prices than stores in other states. The average wine retailer in Massachusetts sells three times more wine than the average retailer in the 34 states where wine is sold in grocery stores.

"The liquor lobby and its political allies make all kinds of wild claims as part of their scare campaign against the Wine at Food Stores Initiative because they want to protect the current package store monopoly," noted Massachusetts Food Association president Chris Flynn. "But as the NorthBridge study clearly shows, there is really no legitimate reason why Massachusetts consumers should not have the option to buy wine at their local grocery store with their meal, just like consumers can in most other states."
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