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Leave the small business operators alone

As the deadline for New York State's budget nears, the City Eagle reminds readers that buried inside this budget is a proposition that would allow grocery, drug and convenience stores to begin selling wine. If passed, this would create a real threat to independent, local small businesses while practically guaranteeing increased revenue to large chain retailers, none of which hold a significant stake in the local community.

It is utterly disheartening that although Gov. Paterson fell to the pressure to rescind propositions for many unpopular new taxes, this proposition stands.

All this whining about selling wine in supermarkets couldn't come at a worse time economically. Is this really the best time to carve away at the local mom and pop sector of the market's income? Many economic initiatives or deals never touch the small business operator - instead it's take and take and take.

To be a successful small business operator in Syracuse is similar to a season on Survivor -- okay, worse, because there are no commercial breaks and no end in sight - unless perhaps you are cancelled out of business. And many of these stores have been in families for several generations.

Sure, they sell wine in supermarkets in other states. But also states with these laws, such as Florida, Texas and California, have a three to one higher DWI rate for under age drinkers, as it is easier to police in the smaller stores.

Also, in many of those states, liquor and wine storeowners are also allowed multiple liquor licenses, something New York State does not currently allow by law. The hands of shop owners in New York are tied by the liquor authority, prevented from growing into a chain of retailers -- but grocers do not face this obstacle.

Having wine available in the supermarket isn't the best approach for the customer either. Supermarkets don't often carry a wide selection of wine. A typical liquor store will carry an inventory of 1000 types of wine versus 30 or 40 carried in a convenience store. And don't forget the knowledgeable staff, which is often needed with this product that has a flavor change with each vintage. It's more like dumbing-down selection and actual service for the sake convenience, plus a one-time boost to the state of New York for a license.

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