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New York moves to allow wine in supermarkets

Despite a defeat last spring, New York State lawmakers have quickly introduced new legislation that would permit wine and liquor sales in supermarkets and grocery stores.

Coordinated Senate and Assembly bills, in Albany, the capital, also propose liberalization of Prohibition-era regulations governing liquor stores, whose revenues could be threatened by new retail competition.

Sponsors and supporters of the current measures claim that New York State’s wine industry, the nation’s fourth largest, would especially benefit from an expansion of wine-selling outlets.

The legislation would curtail certain so-called blue laws that restrict liquor store proprietors’ business options. It would broaden store hours and permit sales of non-carbonated beverages and snacks.

The politicians’ news release announcing their legislative initiative did not state that, in addition to grocery stores, it would allow drug stores to sell wine, a prospect likely to inflame opponents.

The sponsors claimed that their measures would ‘raise hundreds of millions in new revenue for the state annually.’

Seeking to find new sources of revenue for the state’s deficit-ridden budget, last spring Governor David A Paterson proposed letting food stores sell wine in exchange for paying new licensing fees.

Arguing that such action would put more than a third of the state’s 2,400 liquor and wine stores out of business, a powerful lobby named Last Store on Main Street fought back, and the governor’s proposal died during budget negotiations.

About 35 of America’s 50 states allow wine sales in grocery stores.

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Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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