New Jersey Considering Allowing Beer and Wine Sales in Grocery Stores

06/12/2008 11:05

Back in 1962 beer and wine sales were disallowed in NJ grocery stores. One of the reasons was to help deal with Tony Soprano and organized crime. Major retailers such as Stop & Shop, Pathmark, Albertson's and Whole Foods are behind the initiative while the mom & pop liquor stores are obviously against it.

In a state where wine sales do occur in big retailers, such as Vons in California, consumers do benefit with more competitive pricing. However, in general those big box stores tend to carry more of the mass produced and mass marketed brands such as Yellowtail instead of some of the smaller batch boutique wines that you can find from your local wine shop.

TRENTON, N.J.: New Jersey lawmakers are again considering plans to allow beer and wine sales in grocery stores. While 45 states allow such sales, New Jersey limits supermarket chains to two total liquor licenses. It also mandates that the liquor be sold separately from groceries, usually in an adjoining store.

Major supermarket chains are working to change that, but smaller liquor store owners fear the change would drive them out of business.

"The big guys are going to wipe out the little guys," Jeffrey Warsh, executive director of the New Jersey Wine and Spirits Wholesalers Association, told lawmakers in a December hearing.

Legislators took no action during last year's hearing, but Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the bill's sponsor, expects a vote Monday by the Senate Economic Growth committee. He predicted the bill will pass.

The measure is backed by a coalition that includes QuickChek, Stop & Shop, SuperValu, Wegmans, Pathmark, Whole Foods Market and Albertsons, which owns Acme.

Otto Leuschel, chairman of the Retailers for Responsible Liquor Licensing coalition, said consumers would be assured more convenience and choice with one-stop shopping.

"With the many burdens that New Jersey residents currently face, such as the economic downturn and the rise in gas prices, consumers are looking for ways to improve their hectic days," he said.

The New Jersey law was adopted in 1962 to prevent price fixing and monopolization and to address organized crime.

Fred Leighton, owner of Bayway World of Liquor in Elizabeth, has doubted a need for the bill.

"Do we really need or want more convenience in the sale of alcohol in this state?" Leighton asked. "Do we need it? I mean, we're not in Texas where you have to drive a hundred miles. New Jersey is a dense state -- if you need alcohol, there's plenty of opportunity to find it." 

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. 


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