Wine could be coming to your local supermarket

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Those special trips to the liquor store might become a thing of the past if certain lawmakers get their way.

A new proposal introduced on May 10 to the New York state legislature has some wine lovers salivating but wine and liquor shops saying not so fast.

If the bill goes forward, you could pick up wine at grocery stores like Wegmans. 40 states already allow wine to be sold in grocery stores and some customers who typically shop at their local liquor store for wine are in favor of the bill and hope New York becomes the 41st state.

“I think wine is reasonable to have in the supermarkets,” Bill O’Malley said. “It’s done everywhere else. New Jersey, California, where they have everything available in the supermarkets. I think it would be convenient for most people. It helps the consumer not have to make multiple stops if all they want is wine.”

Other customers say although it would be convenient to shop for wine while grabbing groceries, they think it would not be fair for wine and liquor retailers.

“A lot of mom-and-pop operations are going to suffer significantly,” John Bellardini said.

Wine and liquor store owners agree if this proposal is passed it will hurt their business and say they are against popping the cork on this proposal.

“They get a better experience rather than going to a Wegmans or a Whole Foods running down the aisle and grabbing whatever is on the shelf but to take away the wine and leave us with the spirits it will force most of us out of business,” said Nelson Habecker, owner of East Avenue Liquors in Downtown Rochester.

Habecker has been in business for four decades. His staff includes certified wine specialists who are knowledgeable about the assortment of wines that they sell. Wine sales are the meat and potatoes of his shop.

“In the smaller stores when you take away the larger margin product and leave them with the minimum margin product it will be difficult to survive,” Habecker said.

An independent wine merchant and co-owner of a liquor shop in Rochester is also concerned about the impact on his business this proposal will have if it is passed.

“So that’s 70% potentially if not more of our in-store traffic that we lose,” Matt Yaeger, co-owner of Pinnacle Wine and Liquor, said. “So at that point how do I pay my rent, how do I pay my people?”

Having a business like his allows him to build a relationship with his customers. He can tailor his wine selections to them.

“Because in New York we have never had wine in grocery stores before, I’m forced as a merchant to stock the inexpensive box wine for my neighbor Frank, I also get to stock the really cool stuff for the wine-interested and the savvy,” Yaeger said.

Many families who own businesses in the wine and spirit industry, as well as truck drivers who make the deliveries and sales reps, can all be impacted by this, Yaeger said.

Not surprisingly Wegmans is in favor of the proposal and in a statement said:

“Wegmans has always been a strong supporter of New York-made products. We are in favor of providing convenience for New York consumers, creating jobs, and doing everything possible to support the New York wine industry. We are proud to support legislation that would give New York consumers access to wine in grocery stores, like 40 other states already do.”

Organizations representing thousands of New York wine and liquor businesses sent a letter to members of the legislature urging them to not support the measure and reject what they call a harmful wine-in-grocery-store bill.

Some of these businesses include Empire Merchants, LLC; Empire Merchants North, LLC; Metropolitan Package Store Association; New York State Beer Wholesalers; New York State Liquor Store Association; Retailers Alliance of New York, Inc.; and Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.

One of the local senators that introduced the bill is Sen. Jeremy Cooney. It is under review by a legislative committee and has a ways to go before potentially becoming law.