One of Gov. David Paterson's proposals may have far reaching implications for Chautauqua County - allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores.
In the executive briefing book, the proposal is projected to raise $105,000,000 in revenue for the 2009-10 general fund.
"Allow the sale of wine in grocery and drug stores upon payment of a franchise fee,'' reads the line under the New York state Department of Budget 2009-2010 executive budget briefing book.
In Chautauqua County, which produces more than 65 percent of the state's annual grape harvest with more than 20,000 vineyard acres, the effect of the proposal is disputed between the wineries, the liquor stores that currently sell the wine, and the grocery stores that next year may be able to sell wine as well.
Under current New York law, the sale of wine is restricted to the states 2,600 liquor stores. The governor's proposal will allow the sale in 19,000 grocery and convenience stores, according to The Business Council.
"Gov. David Paterson's proposal to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores is good for the economy and good for consumers,'' Kenneth Adams, president and chief executive officer of The Business Council of New York State, said in a written statement. "Allowing supermarkets and grocery stores to sell wine will create new markets for upstate and Long Island wineries and convenience for consumers. In addition, the proposal will generate new revenue for the cash-strapped state.''
GROCERY STORES IN FAVOR
Jim Bedient, president of the New York State Wine Grape Growers, said catching up with the other 35 states who sell wine in grocery stores has been one of the organization's key issues for the last 30 years.
"Certainly from a grower's end, just to stock the shelves on the 19,000 outlets will create a shortage of grapes, which is good if your trying to sell them. The last couple years has actually been a little tight for the premium wine grape market. We've seen, last year, prices of most of the premium wine grapes actual drop slightly, where most other farm commodities went up 50 percent this current year,'' Bedient said.
The next step, Bedient said, when all the details of the bill are clear, is dependent upon the Senate and the Assembly.
The New York Farm Bureau has also been actively pursuing the legislation for years as a means to increase New York state agriculture.
"We really feel that it will really boost New York agriculture at a time when it really needs a boost,'' Pete Gregg, director of public relations, said.
"This is certainly benefit consumers and make it more convenient to get New York made wine. But, at the same time it's going to boost agriculture and benefit the western New York economy.''
GRAPE GROWERS, LOCAL LIQUOR STORES OPPOSE BILL
While there has been advocacy for the passage of such a bill for years through such organizations as the New York Farm Bureau, and the New York State Wine Grape Growers, local liquor stores, who have for years been the main point of distribution for wine in New York state, oppose the legislation.
"Taking away half of our inventory and giving it to a grocery store, when we're not allowed to have a beer license to sell beer or any malt based liquor in with our wine and alcohol at the store, isn't going to help us at all. It's only going to help the grocery store,'' Josie Graves, owner of Bardo's Liquor Store in Jamestown, said.
Jason Merritt, general manager of Merritt Estate Winery in Forestville, said the move could result in one-stop shopping, threatening the local wineries who produce the wine and the liquor stores who sell it.
Merritt said small wineries are dependent on a wide range of different liquor stores to market their products. And the move to grocery stores will leave New York wines in competition with larger, more known brands, who will receive larger shelf space from the distributors who are marketing top tier wines.
"If something like that happened, because it would kind of become one-stop shopping in that instance, you would see the smaller boutique liquor stores, would probably end up closing their doors,'' Merritt said.
Connie Glace, owner and manager of Bob's Vintage Wine & Liquor in Lakewood, views the proposal as a short-sighted attempt to raise revenue, which in the long run will effect the liquor stores and the suppliers.
"The only incentive now would be the huge revenue that would come in the very beginning. Because the license that these stores would be required to have are a huge amount,'' Glace said. ''But once everyone has got them that wants them, it's not going to be any advantage to the grocery stores having them, except for the convenience of the customer. But do you understand they would still have to go into a liquor store to buy the spirit part of it?''