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Paterson's wine proposal uncorks controversy

"Ninety percent of sales to minors come out of grocery stores," Pascale added.

Putting wine in grocery stores would give youth much easier access to a controlled substance.

The underage drinking issue is one of the biggest factors, butthe inability for liquor stores - small, independent businesses by design - to compete with larger chain operations spells the end for business owners.

"The balance will be destroyed," Ray Rudolph told Barclay last week. Rudolph owns Plaza Liquor Store in Camillus.

That fragile balance exists for liquor proprietors between wine and liquor, and the ratio of tax and profit each product presents. Grocery stores want to sell wine, but not liquor, because of the low state-imposed tax and the high markup on wine, Rudolph said. Selling hard liquor imposes a high excise tax in New York and the profit margin is negligible.

Pascale, who stocks about 4,000 varieties of wine, said 60 percent of his average sales are from wine.

"It would probably be very difficult to survive," Pascale said. "Ironically, grocery stores would only sell the top-selling items."

With limited space, grocers would probably carry the most popular wines; consumers lose out on the variety while liquor stores lose business.

Additionally, grocers are not going to increase their space to make room for wine, or employ more people to sell it, Rudolph pointed out. In the meantime, jobs are lost at the liquor stores who go out of business, and the property the stores once occupied stand empty. And, the service offered in liquor stores in regard to wine knowledge will also go away.

But, maybe not

On the contrary, Paul Speranza, vice chairman of the general counsel and secretary of Wegman's Food Markets, Inc., noted in a telephone interview that selling wine in stores other than liquor stores would create jobs on the production side of the wine business.

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