Tuesday, March 23, 2010

AN OPEN LETTER TO JEFF SAUNDERS AND THE “LAST STORE ON MAIN STREET” – WHAT’S THE PLAN NOW?

Now that the danger seems to have passed, and liquor stores have once again called on local wineries to help defeat the Wine in Grocery Stores Plan, it seems to me that this same coalition should not just shutter up the building until next year, when this same fight will rear it’s ugly head, and our liquor store “friends” will call on us again to fight the monster that is in the closet. I know I personally sent at least a dozen letters against the plan.

It seems to me that Jeff Saunders and THE LAST STORE ON MAIN STREET folks should now turn their efforts to creating a working partnership with their local wineries to encourage sales of local wine. Jeff has sent out letters to that effect (see below – and a press release from LSOMS). And I have seen first hand the retailer/winemaker gatherings they have sponsored. I have seen some good things come from them. But I am still concerned.

When the liquor stores were faced with the bleak prospect of 1900 new wine outlets, and the possible loss of their livelihoods, the local wineries, for the most part, backed them up. That’s what friends are for. But now it is the liquor store owners’ chance to do the right thing by their local wineries – and buy local wine.

I’d say roughly half the liquor stores in our area do a great job selling local wine. And to them we say THANK YOU, with real sincerity and heartfelt thanks. They are good partners that work in concert with their local wineries. Better yet, they are friends. And we were happy to support them.

The other half will go back to selling California, French, Italian, Spanish, Chilean, and South African wines, and leave New York state wines comfortably in their rearview mirror, their existence marked safe for another year.

Now is the time to start working the relationship in the other direction. It is time to feature local product in your stores, and join the local food movement, so popular everywhere else.

I for one am tired of seeing Greek and Hungarian wine (I actually adore Tokai and a few Hungarian reds) flaunted in a store, but New York state wines are no where to be found. I have nothing against either of those countries, nor their wines. But, what kind of idiocy is that? What kind of rude treatment is that? Feature obscure, evolving regions, and disrespect the local producers? Especially those getting 80s and 90s in the big rating magazines?!

New York wines continue to get rave reviews from the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times, as well as popular blogs, such as The Pour and the New York Cork Report, among many news outlets, but many state liquor stores turn their backs. Can you imagine walking into a California store that sells wines, grocery or other, and imagine not finding a California wine? So how is that the case here?

As I have said before, Scott Osborn is not wrong. I like Scott. He’s a smart man, and a good wine maker. He has turned Fox Run into a successful, quality producer. He is a great champion of New York state wine. His fight is not without it’s merits. It was to his detriment that the legislation was written so poorly, otherwise he might have won the fight. He is right. There are not enough outlets for NY state wines. If you minus half the state’s liquor stores (because they don’t carry NY wine), there are few retail outlets to grow a winery businesses. And there are fewer liquor stores than there used to be. The math isn’t hard. If the liquor store owners can’t or won’t help the wineries grow their businesses, more wineries will rightfully join Scott’s side in the next fight.

This letter is NOT meant to be a threat! On the contrary, it’s meant to be an entreaty to help us build a stronger partnership together, to improve good friendships, and build new ones. To create together an industry that will blossom in the 22nd Century. I hope that hand extends from one side of the aisle to another.

Sincerely
Carlo DeVito

THE LETTERS:

Dear Winery Owner:

The New York State Senate today released its budget resolution that rejects Governor Paterson’s job-killing plan to legalize wine sales in 19,000 new outlets. This is the first step in formally rejecting this bad idea. The Assembly is expected to take a similar step this week, which should all but assure defeat for this dangerous proposal.

We are continuing to work hard to ensure its final defeat, but wanted you to know that we hope that the end of this battle will allow us to focus on building a better and stronger industry based on ideas that help stores and wineries grow and thrive.

We have had two roundtables between retailers and wineries so far, and have the third planned for tomorrow (March 23) at Duck Walk Vineyards on Long Island. The events in Hudson Valley and in the Finger Lakes started a very positive discussion that we hope to continue, and ultimately, help produce an action agenda we can work together to achieve.

The Senate budget resolution also calls for restoring $950,000 for the Wine and Grape Foundation, which we trust is also of interest to you.

I want to express my continued appreciation for those wineries who joined with us in our effort to defeat the Paterson plan this year, and extend an invitation to all wineries to work with us as we move passed this divisive issue once and for all. If we work together, there is nothing we can not accomplish.

Best,


Jeff Saunders
President
Retailers Alliance and coalition founder

AND


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Wendi Leggitt
(212) 681-1380 or (301) 247-0528
LAST STORE ON MAIN STREET PRAISES STATE SENATE BUDGET RESOLUTION
Rejects Job-Killing Wine in Grocery Stores Proposal
NEW YORK, NY March 22, 2010 – Leaders of the Last Store on Main Street today praised the New York State Senate for its budget resolution that rejects Governor Paterson’s job-killing plan to legalize the sale of wine in 19,000 new outlets across New York State. The New York State Assembly is also expected to adopt a resolution this week rejecting this bad idea.

“Senator Sampson and his colleagues have sided with small businesses over Big Box stores in rejecting this dangerous proposal for the second consecutive year,” said Jeff Saunders, founder of the Last Store Coalition and president of the Retailers Alliance. “In the worst economy this state has seen in generations, it makes no sense to put 4,500 people out of work just so greedy Big Box stores can soak up more corporate profits.

“With Governor Paterson leaving office, we hope this puts an end to this battle,” Saunders said. “Instead, we should focus on ways we can work together to build our industry so stores and New York wineries can grow and thrive together.”

Governor Paterson’s bad plan would have closed more than 1,000 stores and put 4,500 people out of work without creating a single new job. In addition, by increasing access to wine – which has three to four times the alcohol content of beer –underage drinking and drunk driving would have also increased. As a result, law enforcement organizations across the state opposed the dangerous plan.

In addition, 100 New York wineries opposed the idea, recognizing that grocery stores would have given shelf space to cheap imported wines, shutting New York wineries out and limiting their availability to consumers.

“We applaud the State Senate for taking the first step to reject this dangerous idea, and look forward to a final budget that closes the book on this money grab by Big Box stores once and for all,” said Stefan Kalogridis, a Last Store Coalition leader and president of New York State Liquor Store Association.
Michael Correra, a coalition leader and executive director of the Metropolitan Package Store Association, said, “We have worked long and hard to make the case against this bad bill, and are grateful the Legislature has once again made the right decision. We look forward to working with our partners in New York wineries to build an industry that allows all of us to succeed.”