17 December 2008

Beer in New York Supermarkets?

There's been a bit of talk about Governor David Paterson's proposed increase in beer (and other) taxes in New York to try to fix the budgetary problems, but lost in the mix is his proposal to permit wine sales in grocery stores. In New York, you can't buy wine in supermarkets. Liquor stores fight to retain these protectionist laws, and supposedly local wineries do so as well, worrying that broader sales could drag more California wines into the state and hurt their sales.

I can't defend the protectionism, but I do believe that these laws have allowed great beer stores like Beers of the World and Finger Lakes Beverage to flourish. A corollary to the laws is that liquor stores can only sell wine and spirits, not beer, so beer retailers have a bit of space carved out for them. Then again, if supermarket giants like Wegmans could sell bottled wine, they might swap valuable store space from craft/imported beer to wine.

Two interesting (?) side notes. First, you can't buy bottled wine at Wegmans, but you can sit and drink a glass or two at the food counter nestled in between the bakery and fish department. Second, frustrated by their inability to sell wine, one member of the Wegman fanily recently bought out a local wine retailer and built a 45,000 square foot behemoth down the street from their flagship supermarket. I'm not sure if they would have done that if they had been able to sell wine in their stores all along.

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