Liquor stores oppose wine proposal

Among several controversial measures Gov. Paterson has suggested to reduce the budget deficit is his proposal to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores.

Under current New York State law, only liquor stores are licensed to sell wine and spirits. Gov. Paterson believes that in the first year the measure could produce over $100 million in revenue in the form of one-time licensing fees from grocery stores.

The proposal has excited controversy among small business owners. "We make a lot of our profits from wine - more than from liquor," said John Pope, an employee at Valleyview Liquor. "If Wegmans starts selling wine, we'll lose business."

Some businesses may experience greater impacts than others. "We're lucky, being close to the college. We'll probably always have business," said Pope. "Other small liquor stores probably won't be as lucky."

Currently, 35 other states allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. Rita Gibney, store manager at the Geneseo Wegmans said she believes the inevitable growth of the wine industry will result in a net gain of jobs rather than a loss. "I think there are 2,800 outlets to buy wine in New York state," she said. "That's not very many at all. If it opened up to grocery stores, you'd be talking close to 29,000." The increase in wine sales, according to Gibney, will lead to a growth in the wine industry that will translate into more jobs.

Liquor stores in states like Washington where Wegmans sells wine "flourish very well," according to Gibney. She also said she believes Wegmans poses little threat to small businesses in Geneseo. "We have a sub shop here and there are also one, two, three sub shops in town," said Gibney. "They didn't go out of business when we opened up our sub shop. It is business, and wine would be just another part of our business."

The proposal has met with mixed response from Geneseo students. "If grocery stores can already sell wine in 35 other states, I don't see a problem," said senior Alex Steres, noting that the proposal would make buying wine more convenient.

Not all, however, are pleased with the measure. "It's just another example of big business edging out local business," said senior Nolan Quinn. "I don't like it."

"In a way, we're the last line of defense," said a Valleyview Liquor employee who wished to remain anonymous. "Where have all your butchers, your bakers, and candlestick makers gone? To the supermarket."

It remains to be seen whether the proposal will be among revenue actions passed under Gov. Paterson's budget proposal. The budget deadline has set for April 1. u

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