Monday, February 14, 2011

Second Glass of Wine in Supermarkets

While it wasn't in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the issue of wine in supermarkets returned to the forefront on Monday during the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing on the Economic Development portions of the budget.
A panel from the Wine Industry Association, with Vice President Susan Hayes and Secretary Tina Hazlitt, made the argument during their testimony that selling wine in supermarkets wouldn't be a one-time gimmick to close the budget, but argued that it would serve to grow the wine industry in the state and create many new jobs.
Hayes made the argument that there aren't enough liquor stores in New York to allow the state's wine industry to grow as rapidly as it wants and Hazlitt, who spoke for grape growers, said the limited market was killing her industry.
Their position that liquor stores are already a dying industry, as local stores are being phased out by mom and pop stores, which meant that if their industry didn't want to go down with them they would need a new outlet (read as supermarkets).
The most compelling case made was when Hayes suggested that selling wine in supermarkets could attract Waterloo to open a $100 million bottling plant and in addition that the new market would generate 1500 jobs in the wine industry in the first year and over a five-year period would create 7500 jobs.
Assembly Member Dean Murray was the only person at the public hearing to take umbrage with this position (although Chair Farrell did ramble on about some outdated anecdote that applied to nothing. He countered that wine in supermarkets would kill local liquor stores, while choosing to ignore the reality pointed out by the witnesses that local stores were already being squeezed out by larger chains (like the new love of my life, The Exit 9 Liquor Warehouse).
Murray did score his first and best point with the observation that there was no guarantee that supermarkets would carry New York wines if they had an option to stock their shelves with cheaper wines from elsewhere. The argument against this, as espoused by Hayes, was that grocery stores like to stock local ware because it appeals to a growing green movement. Additionally, she said that their wines are popular, with supermarkets in Vermont placing orders by the pallet.
Eventually the heated exchange between the two ladies and Murray peaked when he began an impassioned plea for the mom and pop liquor stores, whose workers would become unemployed and be a burden on the state.
This clich├ęd contention was summarily discharged by the speakers who said that competition is good, suggested that their industry was just as important as liquor stores and reminded everyone that liquor stores in the old model were already outdated.
The debate about wine in supermarkets is definitely going to continue, but after today it seems to have moved past the benefit of a one time fee of about $250 million to close the budget deficit.

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