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Paterson's wine proposal uncorks controversy

As tough as times are, liquor and wine store owners across New York State have united against a proposition included in Gov. David Paterson's budget that would allow wine to be sold in grocery, drug and convenience stores, a move that could translate into more than $100 million in revenue for the state in the first two years.

The profit would come from one-time licensing fees stores would pay for the privilege, at a cost of .46 of one percent of the store's 2008 sales.

But as a direct result of that short-lived windfall, liquor storeowners say, thousands of jobs would be lost and businesses would close as liquor stores became unable to compete with big chain grocery stores.

A united front

Of the group of about 15 people who attended Assembyman Will Barclay's town hall-style meeting at Camillus Town Hall last week, several were representing local liquor stores as owners or employees. None of them were in favor of Gov. Paterson's proposal to allow grocery, convenience and drug stores to begin selling wine.

Barclay said he was not surprised to hear from storeowners at the meeting; he had been notified earlier that several business owners would be present.

"They are very organized," Barclay said.

During the meeting, Barclay intimated he had the impression grocers had assumed the move was a done deal, but didn't count on how united liquor storeowners would become against the proposition.

He added that he felt Paterson had probably made the proposition because of the revenue potential and had not realized, as Barclay hadn't at first, the impact it could have on liquor store business.

Bad for business

"Most people don't understand wine is a controlled substance," said Chuck Pascale, a co-owner of Pascale's Liquor Square on Erie Boulevard in Syracuse.

The percentage of alcohol in wine compared to beer is significant - making it more attractive to underage drinkers. One of the biggest arguments against the proposition is an increase in underage drinking and DWIs.

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