Panel Stalls Bid to Allow Supermarkets To Sell Beer

DOVER, Del. -- A bill to allow supermarkets to sell beer in the state of Delaware has stalled in the House of Representatives' business, corporations and commerce committee, where it could stay until the legislative session ends July 1.

"It might stay in committee forever," said Rep. Joseph E. Miro, R-Newark, the panel's chairman, of the bill.The legislation would allow beer, but not wine, to be sold in supermarkets. It would not include convenience stores.

Rep. Roger P. Roy, R-Wilmington, the bill's sponsor, said the measure should be reconsidered this month because he's preparing proposals to satisfy some concerns. Areas of worry include a state law limiting how many liquor stores a person or group can own, and spacing requirements for liquor stores that do not apply to grocery stories.

Liquor store owners, not surprisingly, heavily oppose the measure. Its retail supporters, including Safeway and Giant Food, said the proposal would help consumers. "We think this bill will increase convenience for customers," said Gregory A. TenEyck, director of public affairs for the Safeway grocery chain's eastern division, based in Lanham, Md. "There is no doubt the consumer will benefit from having more options about where to purchase beer."

Barry F. Scher, v.p. of public affairs for Giant, stressed that all but five states allow beer and/or wine to be sold in food stores, so enforcing the drinking age is not foreign to the retailer.

"We already sell beer and wine in our stores in Virginia, parts of Maryland and the District of Columbia,"Scher said. "Our record of not selling beer and wine to minors is exemplary. We feel that our customers should be able to purchase a table beverage while doing their grocery shopping."
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