Chain Liquor Store Bill Introduced

Liquor store franchises could be the new wave of the future in New York state.

Assemblyman Charles Fall, D-Staten Island, introduced A.10527 to update the state’s liquor laws that only allow wine and spirit retailers from operating only one outlet. Fall proposes to phase in multiple licenses for liquor store owners over an eight-year period and call the total number of licenses one business can hold to 12. There would also be limits on the number of licenses a liquor store owner could have in one county.

“Numerous aspects of New York’s ABC laws have not been updated since Prohibition, including precluding retailers of wine and spirits from operating more than one outlet in the state,” Fall wrote in his legislative justification. “This has made New York an outlier, has limited consumer choice and has negatively impacted the growth of the New York wine and distilled spirits industries. It simply makes no sense that liquor stores are the only type of business limited to one location in the entire state, while other licensed business from restaurants and drug stores to even marijuana dispensaries — have no similar limits.”

According to his legislative justification, Fall said a recent economic impact study on multiple licenses projected increases in state revenue, including $54 million from license auctions and additional tax revenues of more than $43 million; as many as 4,430 new jobs, generating $203.3 million in wages and benefits and $500 million in new economic activity in the state; and as many as 1.9 million additional bottles sold by New York state wine and distilled spirits producers each year. The study also looked at other states which allow multiple licenses, such as Massachusetts, which updated its law in 2011 to allow up to nine licenses and which Fall said has seen positive economic impacts and no domination of the market by large chain retailers.

“This legislation would allow current licensees to grow and diversify by opening additional stores if wanted, while providing owners who do not wish to expand with the ability to capitalize on the increased value of their licenses (created by the restrictions on the number of licenses allowed in each county) by selling them to other owners who could now expand in the state,” Fall wrote.

State liquor laws have prohibited chain liquor stores since Prohibition ended in 1933, with state liquor laws set up to endorse the premise of small liquor stores that were part of a neighborhood instead of a chain store with no local ties.

In 2018, the state accused Wegmans of illegally controlling five liquor stores in Buffalo, Rochester, DeWitt, Pittsford and Johnson City. All of the stores were owned by members of the Wegman family and were located near Wegmans stores. It’s illegal for grocery stores to deal in wine or liquor and one person or corporate entity is only allowed by state law to operate one liquor or wine store. Wegmans paid $750,000 to settle eight charges while the five liquor stores paid $75,000 each.

Then, in 2019, chain store Total Wine lost its appeal to open a 21,000 square foot warehouse store in White Plains. The liquor authority had said there were already enough package stores in the area and that sales in those existing stores was decreasing.


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