N.Y. Gov. Wants Grocers to Sell Wine

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N.Y. Gov. Wants Grocers to Sell Wine

Gov. David Paterson
Gov. David Paterson of New York this week put forward a state budget plan that, among many other provisions, would permit grocery stores in the state to sell wine and champagne as a way to boost state revenue and promote state wineries.

The idea was included in the governor's proposed budget released yesterday.

New York is currently one of 15 states that ban sales of these alcoholic beverages in grocery stores. Paterson said changing the law would bring in about $100 million in revenue via a franchise fee charged to any grocer who already sells beer and wants to sell wine.

Reactions to the plan from Empire State retailers and other interested parties were predictably mixed.

"We love the idea of supermarkets being allowed to sell wine," Jeanne Colleluori, spokeswoman for Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans, told the Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Journal. "We have supported this idea for decades because we believe it's a great service to the customers."

"The governor's proposal is a bold move that brings New York in line with other states, and provides our wineries and grape growers with the ability to increase their market share," said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau, a 30,000-member family farm organization based in Greenwich, N.Y. that represents all sectors of agriculture, including the wine and grape industry.

Liquor stores were less than enthusiastic, however, fearful of damage to the local economy through liquor-store closings. Mark Ressler, who owns a liquor store in Buffalo is  v.p. of the state Liquor Store Association, based in Troy, noted in the Poughkeepsie Journal that letting grocery stores sell wine could lead underage drinking, since the stores don't have the resources to ensure that only adults are purchasing wine.

But according to Noreen Healey, a commissioner of the state Liquor Authority in New York City, liquor stores wouldn't suffer from the proposal because they'd still be the only retailers in the state selling hard liquor and niche products.

Gov. Paterson's plan comes at a time when, faced with a $15 billion budget shortfall, state lawmakers are looking for new ways to raise revenue.

New York is home to 19,000 grocery and convenience stores.