Put a cork in it

SARANAC LAKE - Essex County's representatives in Albany have come out in strong opposition to a plan that would allow grocery stores to sell wine.

In his executive budget released in December, Governor David Paterson included a proposal that would add New York to the list of 35 other states that allow wine sales in grocery stores.

Legislators from the North Country are opposing the initiative, however, as evident in a Jan. 13 letter written by State Senator Betty Little to the governor.

"Representing more than 70 liquor stores in the 45th Senate District, my concern is for their sustainability," wrote Little.

"Grocery stores, particularly the large ones, have a tremendous buying power advantage," she added. "Selling wine at a lower price will no doubt attract consumers to these large retailers and away from the smaller 'mom and pop' liquor stores."

"Many of the liquor stores I represent have told me that wine is approximately 40-60% of their sales," said Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward. "If wine sales are lost to liquor stores they will have lost a significant portion of their business."

Sayward pointed to the 18 Alcoholic Beverage Control states, many of which sell wine in grocery stores. Since those states operate liquor stores as a state-owned monopoly, such sales don't have a negative effect on private business, however.

"Small businesses are struggling as it is," added Sayward. "I will not support the Governor on this issue."

Terry McDougal, owner of Boquet Liquor Store in Elizabethtown, said that the governor's proposal would certainly hurt his business if passed. Wine sales account for about 70 percent of his business, he said, and offer larger profit margins than the sale of liquor.

Though McDougal grants that grocery wine sales may be more convenient from a consumer standpoint, it could prove to be troublesome for some customers.

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