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Apr 1, 2009 1:39 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Compromise on wine likely to wither on the vine

Apr 1, 2009 1:39 PM

A proposal to allow grocery stores in New York State to carry wine in exchange for a franchise fee has been put back in the cellar—at least for now.

Back in January, Governor David Paterson floated the idea in an effort to cut the state’s budget deficit, but the plan quickly ran into strong opposition from the Long Island Wine Industry and local liquor stores and has been dropped. Still, New York State Assemblyman Marc Alessi, a Democrat from Wading River, said earlier this week that he planned to dust off the proposal and reintroduce an amended version to the legislature before the summer, but now that, too, has been shelved.

Mr. Alessi, who didn’t support the original proposal because he said it would have hurt local liquor stores and wineries, crafted a compromise that would have allowed the markets to only carry wines from wineries that produce less than 250,000 gallons per year. Mr. Alessi said his proposal would have also given a boost to the liquor stores by providing them the opportunity to increase hours of operation and sell other goods, such as cigars, food and beer.

But with little support for the compromise, Mr. Alessi said he plans instead to hold hearings on the issue with all sides at the table.

“This is not going away,” Mr. Alessi said. “Groceries stores want to carry wine.”

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who opposed the governor’s plan and said he also opposes any modification of it, said Mr. Alessi’s proposal is going nowhere. “My sense of it is there’s not any traction for this proposal or any compromise,” Mr. Thiele said. “There’s a lot of opposition to this right now.”

Critics have said selling wine in grocery stores would take business away from liquor stores and benefit foreign and out-of-state wines to the detriment of local wineries. Those in favor of the governor’s plan—which Mr. Paterson said could generate more than $150 million in revenue over the next two years—argue that the state’s wine and grape growers would benefit as it would increase the number of wine consumers.

Mr. Alessi, whose district contains 40 wineries, said if the grocery stores are allowed to carry wine without restrictions then the wine from those local wineries, most of which are clustered on the North Fork, would not make it on the shelves.

“It’s going to be all the big brands,” Mr. Alessi said. “We can’t hurt our local wine industry, which is growing.”

Thomas Cullen of King Kullen supermarkets, who favored the governor’s plan, has said his company would commit to carrying Long Island wines. He has pointed to a 2004 survey that found 71 percent of wine consumers in New York state would like to have the option of buying wine in grocery stores.

Mr. Thiele said he hasn’t heard that sentiment from the people in his district.

“Truthfully, my constituents are not banging down my door wanting to buy their wine in their local groceries,” he said.

Brian Bossetta

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You couldn't restrain trade in this manner by selectively excluding wineries. Mr. Alessi should step back and think about what he is doing before he makes such remarks.
By Liquorstoreowner (2), Southampton on Apr 1, 09 5:35 PM
Well if beer is available at retail stores/supermarkets AND beer distributors wine should be available at both liquor stores and other retail stores/supermarkets.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Apr 2, 09 10:41 AM
I go to St Augustine Florida once a year for the past 5 years. Last Sunday bought a bottle of wine in a CVS on Rt 312 - a New Zealand Savignon Blanc for about $9. The store had a small selection.
Right up the street on Rt A1A are not one but two wine and liquor stores, both large and both well stocked, and both with plenty of cars in the driveway. Yet in New York I'd be hardpressed to find a bottle of wine on a Sunday as not all outlets are open.
Clearly the CVS is not cutting into the sales ...more
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Apr 2, 09 12:22 PM