Gail Purdy doesn’t want to lay off half of her 15 employees.
But the owner of Purdy’s Discount Wine & Liquor in Saratoga Springs said Friday if wine is allowed to be sold in grocery stores, it will hurt her business enough that she’ll have to start making cutbacks.
Purdy’s was the launching pad for a final push from the Last Store on Main Street Coalition, a group of small businesses, wineries and community leaders who want wine sales kept out of grocery stores, gas stations, delis, and bodegas in New York state. Allowing those broader sales is under state debate as a potential money raiser.
Purdy said she has been in the wine and liquor business since 1963 and in that time, the wine business has become more competitive. Currently she offers more than 5,000 wines, which have a greater profit margin than liquor.
The “Wine Industry and Liquor Store Revitalization Act” would allow grocery stores and other non-liquor store outlets that own more than one location to sell wine for a franchise fee.
Stefan Kalogridis, president of the New York State Liquor Store Association, said there has been mostly a grass-roots effort by store owners to oppose the measure, with in-store petitions and events like the one held Friday. Kalogridis owns the Colvin Wine Merchants, located near a Hannaford supermarket in Albany.
He said consumers should call up local legislators and express their concerns while the state Legislature is in session negotiating a budget for the new fiscal year.
“Jobs will be killed,” he said, if legislators allow non-liquor stores to sell wine.
Claire Goddard is district manager for Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, near Newburgh. The winery claims to be the nation’s oldest, tracing its roots back to 1839.
If a significant number of liquor stores closes due to compromised market share, she said, New York wineries will be hurt.
“For us, we depend on small retailers to promote our products,” she said, adding that the same promotion and wine education could not be matched in grocery stores; the winery’s sales were up 30 percent last year.
On the other side of the debate is Michael Rabinowitz, a spokesman for New Yorkers for Economic Growth and Open Markets.
“We have been communicating with constituents and legislators and making it clear that this is a proposal that will raise $300 million without creating new taxes and allow wineries and grape growers to expand their businesses,” he said.
The group is a coalition of small businesses, wineries, liquor stores and other groups that support wine being sold in grocery stores.
“Clearly, the issue is not dead,” Rabinowitz said. “The Senate and the Assembly and the governor are continuing to negotiate the final budget, and the Legislature will have a choice. They can protect the monopolies that liquor stores have had or open wine sales to more locations. We’re still hopeful that our legislators will make the right choice.”