Proposed Bill Seeks Supermarket Wine Sales, Threatening Independent Liquor Stores

By Rachel Butler, Brooklyn Paper

The future of independently owned liquor stores in Brooklyn — and across the state — could be in jeopardy if a state Senate bill that would permit supermarkets to sell wine were to become law.

The bill would allow grocery stores and supermarkets to obtain a license to sell wine on their premises, which opponents say could lead to a fierce price competition that could put the mom-and-pop stores out of business. Furthermore, it would cut into their existing sales.

Michael Correra, the head of Metropolitan Package Store Association, which represents over 3,300 independent liquor stores across the state, said that the legislation would cripple small stores and potentially put many people out of work. He also said that consumers are already able to get the wine they need and don’t need more stores offering it.

“We don’t need more wine available. It’s not necessary to have wine for purchase in multiple locations. You don’t need to take your kids to the grocery store and see a big display of wine for sale there. We have enough. There is a reason that the system we have now works,” he said.

Correra, who is also the owner of an independent liquor store in Brooklyn Heights, says the law would cut into his revenue — and potentially put him out of business.

“I’m only allowed to sell two products – wine and liquor. Wine is the most profitable and I make 80 percent of my sales from wine alone. If people go elsewhere to buy their wine, I may as well shut down my business, because I don’t see how I could make a profit then,” he said.

storefront of a wine shop in brooklyn heights

Michael Towne Wine and Spirits in Brooklyn Heights. Photo via Michael Correra

The 55-year-old has 11 employees, between part-time and full-time staff, and some of have been working for him for 15 years. He said he would struggle to pay them if this bill is passed.

“If wine is available in grocery stores, that isn’t going to generate new jobs in the community. It will only lead to a huge loss of jobs,” Correra said.

Correra added that the selling of wine in independent liquor stores like his is safe and regulated. He said that the association believes the selling of wine works fine now and there is no need for a new law to disrupt that.

“There’s a reason that the cops aren’t in my liquor store at 2 a.m. because we control what we sell and aren’t open 24 hours a day,” he said.

The Senate bill is sponsored by state Senator Liz Krueger, who represents Midtown East in Manhattan. She has introduced the same bill for a number of years without success, largely due to pushback from the independent stores.

“I have been championing this issue – allowing consumers to buy wine in their local grocery stores – for many years. When friends come to visit from places like Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania or D.C., they’re often dismayed to discover the law won’t let them buy wine in the grocery store. But it’s time to change that,” Krueger said last year.

She said that the legislation would also help boost the wine industry. Furthermore, many grocery stores already sell beer and are prepared to card possible underage drinkers.

Editor’s note: A version of this story originally ran in Brooklyn Paper. Click here to see the original story.

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