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Good and Bad Wine Plans

Monday, February 24, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Editorial: Good and bad wine plans

Updated 6:55 am, Monday, February 24, 2014
  • Photo illustration by Jeff Boyer
    Photo illustration by Jeff Boyer ()



A proposal to require in-state warehousing for wine is needless and would cost wine sellers and consumers.


A better plan is to expand the venues at which wines may be purchased.

Every few years, usually when state budget dollars are scarce, an old idea surfaces — allow the sale of wine in New York's grocery stores.

Through their vocal lobbyists, liquor stores and distributors immediately cry foul, portraying this quite reasonable and worthy idea as an attack on their livelihoods.

But this year, rather than fighting to preserve a consumer-unfriendly monopoly handed to them by New York's antiquated liquor laws, the retailers are rightly up in arms over another threat — one that will raise their costs, limit the variety of wines available in New York and surely impose higher costs on consumers.

A bill currently before the Legislature would require any wine sold in New York to first be "at rest" — warehoused for at least 24 hours, that is — somewhere in the state. Sponsored by state Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, the proposed law would affect tons of wine coming into the Northeast annually through the Port of New Jersey.

Mr. Klein, co-leader of the Senate, argues it would create jobs in the warehouses that would have to open or expand. Times Union columnist Chris Churchill shed a different light on the proposal, noting that Mr. Klein and his Independent Democratic Conference have received $84,000 in campaign donations from entities that would stand to gain because they already operate New York warehouses.

This outrageous proposal has all the public value of paying people to dig holes and fill them in.

Fortunately, Senate Republicans don't like the idea, blocking the needless and costly mandate for now. They should keep it on the sidelines.

A much better idea is getting little attention this year: licensing the state's grocery stores to sell wine, just as they already sell beer, and just as 36 states already allow. It would raise an estimated $350 million in new licensing fees, with annual renewals providing $70 million or more. It also would promote New York wines, some of which have gained international acclaim but are hard to find on the limited shelves of small liquor stores.

Liquor stores have a valid concern — that over time it could drive some out of business. And their competition is tough already. Big-box wine and liquor stores are sprouting up all over, offering discounts and larger assortments, putting pressure on mom-and-pop establishments.

The answer, though, is to change the arcane laws regulating liquor stores to allow them the flexibility to adapt to the marketplace, evolve and remain viable. There is no reason they can't sell products like stemware and snacks and other foods and products that complement their stock.

After all, what retail establishment hasn't had to shift strategies in recent years to compete?

It's time to uncork needless restrictions on wine sales in New York. It will raise state revenues without hiking taxes. It will support and propel New York's wine industry, and offer consumers competitive pricing and a broad assortment.

Sure beats just digging holes.