Popping the cork on the wine-in-grocery-stores debate

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2023 | Business & Corporate Law |

Prohibition ended on December 5, 1933, but states, counties, cities and towns are free to make their own decisions regarding the sale of alcohol, and all manner of restrictions persist to this day. The variety of laws across the country regarding who may be permitted to purchase, in what locations, during which hours on which days, and the different kinds of licenses required to manufacture, transport and sell alcoholic beverages is staggering.

Forty states today permit the sale of wine in grocery stores. New York, one of the top five wine producing states in the U.S., is not one of them.

Dormant proposal revisited after 10+ years

Back in 2009 and 2010, the proposal to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores was floated and it failed. It’s been reintroduced by two state senators who feel the time is ripe for an update. Consumer choice and convenience would be better served, they say, and the law would be more in step with where we are today as a society.

Winners and losers

For many, this proposal has been framed as a fight over market share, with big grocery chains positioned to benefit, while small, family-owned wine and liquor stores get clobbered. Predictably, small business has mounted bitter opposition, claiming their business model would be upended by the new laws, and possibly half of the industry would be shuttered.

The concerns are well-founded. It’s perplexing, too, that some of the trade-offs proffered in 2010 that would have softened the landing for these small businesses, such as permitting liquor stores to sell food products, mixers and glassware and allowing license holders the right to control more than one store, haven’t been included in the current proposal.

A rising tide lifts all boats

At the same time, it’s anticipated that the bill, if passed, would significantly stimulate wine industry growth which would benefit the industry itself and all related industries thereto. Further, the sale of approximately 1900 full-service grocery wine licenses would bring a $300 million infusion into state coffers along with an approximate increase of $22 million in annual tax revenue.