Gov. David A. Paterson hopes to capture more than $100 million in franchise fees by giving supermarkets and grocery stores a chance to expand their beer licenses to include the sale of wine. That gives supermarkets an opening they've sought for years, and has incensed liquor store owners who say that if they lose their exclusive right to sell what amounts to 60 percent of their trade, a thousand stores (of New York's approximately 2,600) will close and 4,000 employees will be out of work.
There are a lot of strong arguments here. Does this make economic sense? Would the competition be good or bad? Would consumers benefit from the convenience, or would hard-liquor purchasers be inconvenienced by store closings? What about the impacts on underage sales, or drunken driving? Is a liquor store license, which long has made store owners serve a state regulatory function, a form of property and is its current exclusivity a property right? What about supermarkets having one license for an entire chain, while store owners can only hold one license for one location? Would this help or heard New York State wine producers, agriculture in general, the state agricultural economy? And to top it all off, each side accuses the other of fighting dirty.
Today's editorial considers salient arguments and then, guided in part by experience in the other 35 states that allow supermarket wine sales, says go ahead and expand the market. But liquor store owners should get some concessions, too, such as removals of bans on sales of foods and such items as wine gift bags. If you can go into Tops or Wegmans and buy some wine to go with your cheese, you ought also to be able to pop into the local liquor store and pick up some cheese to go with your wine.