Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Vote Yes on One

If I read another blog about how we need to protect the "Mom and Pop" liquor stores, I think I may just have to barf. There's so many things wrong with voting against 1 that I don't even know how to contain myself, so I'm not going to try. Everyone who's determined to vote no on 1 needs to take a deep breath and gain a firm grasp on reality.

Let's get first things first, liquor stores are not "Mom and Pop" stores. A "Mom and Pop" store is the family restaurant passed down generation after generation, Dad's TV Repair shop struggling to pay the rent and Uncle Jim's Tailor Shoppe where you can 'bring your new suit to get fitted for a fair price.' A Mom and Pop store is the neighborhood mechanic - the one who won't tell you to get new breaks when all you really need is a tune-up. It's the business who's owners actually live in the community.

People are so quick to attach the romantic allure of the Mom and Pop stores to any local enterprise, when sometimes what they need to do is take a step back and reassess the situation. Mom and Pops are often struggling and do deserve some forms of protection, but the liquor industry is by no means a Mom and Pop. They by no means need financial help, either. Let us also not forget that this is the same industry that sells alcohol to minors en masse; it's the same industry that sells to people who have a tendency to drive with reckless abandon. Uncle Jimmy's Boozetown just doesn't pass the "Mom and Pop" sniff test.

I'm not trying to suggest we go back to the days of prohibition, but to suggest liquor stores deserve special protection from competition is ridiculous. Think about it - do we protect florists? Do we protect the town bank? Do we protect the local video store, bakery or fruit market? How about the local deli? Butcher? Convenient store? Pharmacy? Last time I went to the supermarket, there was a florist, bank, 24 hour ATM, DVD machine, pharmacy, full-service bakery and all the fruit anyone could hope to buy. There's also books, magazines, make-up, pots and pans and all sorts of other non-edible items. Heck, my supermarket of choice is open 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday, and you can buy cheap gas right in the parking lot.

Again, people need to take a step back and take one serious dose of reality. Here's some reality: my friend and fellow thespian, who I've worked with on two separate occasions, lost his father last December. His Dad just happened to own the family florist shop, handed down from generation to generation. It's one of the oldest businesses in all of New Bedford - and one of just two or three florists in a huge city. My friend constantly complained of his conundrum - he has a degree in Theater from UMASS Amherst and wants to pursue his dreams. However, he knows his grandmother would "haunt him forever" if he gave up on the business. One day I asked, "why don't you just hire another hand then?" He couldn't afford to, the business was just barely staying afloat as is - and it didn't seem to be from a lack of costumers.

Meanwhile, here's another story: my much older brother's best friend in High School had parents who owned a small, hole-in-the-wall liquor store in Lynn. The business is small in square footage, in an economically depressed area and has lots of local competition. Yet, his friend lived in the most exclusive area of Lynnfield, one of the most exclusive towns in the state. They drove Lincolns and had a grand atrium when you walked into their house that was quite eye-opening for a little kid. Are people really proposing that my brother's friend deserved special protection, the florist shop be damned? Is liquor really where people have come together to collectively say, "this far, no futher?"

People are mounting campaigns to protect the liquor industry, and for what? They don't like the grocery lobby? Well, it's not as if the liquor stores in Massachusetts haven't raised millions - easily. And it's not as if the liquor lobby is one that deserves the common progressive's support. However, let's look at this question rationally: will the passage of Question 1 lead to the destruction of an entire industry? Liquor stores exist all around the country, despite the fact that most states allow the sale of wine (and beer) at grocery stores. I lived right outside of Washington D.C., in Alexandria, for several months slightly over a year ago. There were plenty of packies, despite the grocery stores being chalk filled with beer and wine. Liquor stores aren't going to go away anymore than banks.

If people are so worried about capitalism run amok, focus on real solutions. The problem isn't grocery stores selling wine, it's grocery stores paying their employees in nickels and dimes, while relying on the Government to pick up the healthcare tab. Banning wine from grocery stores seems so out of scope in addressing the problems of today that I can't even believe this is up for debate. It all boils down to this: if someone wants to buy a bottle of Merlot at Shaw's, that's their own damn perogative.


Aaron said...

Dude, I never said "Mom and Pop." Seriously, those words did not come up once in my post. I'm more concerned about safety. You really don't think it will be easier for kids to get their hands on booze if this thing passes?

As for the other argument, I'm a little confused...I thought I was a liberal until I entered the wacky world of Massachusetts politics 2006, which has seen a bizarre turn of events in which liberals keep sticking up for major corporations over the little guy. (I won't drag the old Ameriquest argument back to life, but I think you get what I'm saying.)

Ryan Adams said...

Sorry if that was ambiguous, you did not say Mom and Pop and I didn't mean to suggest you did. However, LOTS of people have, especially at BMG, and it's laughable.

As far as safety, it's already easy for kids to get their hands on booze. If kids getting their hands on booze is the problem, let's work on creating a solution to THAT.

I'm not anti-corporation, I'm not pro-corporation. I'm pro- socially responsible capitalism, where everyone gets health insurance and consolidation of mega corpororations isn't encouraged.

Most importantly, one of the things I've always tried to do on this website is be pragmatic. Selling beer and wine isn't exactly unique to America; we won't be the first state to do it. There should be lots of data available from other states to better inform our opinions. From having been to other states where grocery stores can sell beer and wine, I can say that a) the liquor stores are still in business and b) they don't have significantly worse problems with minors getting their hands on alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Since when is wine not available in grocery stores? I'm voting no because I think there's some weird agenda here. The Yes ads keep emphasizing that they're not talking about beer, only wine--you can buy beer in the grocery store too. What gives?
Remember when we repealed the blue laws and everything?
As much as it pains me to agree with "former liberal" Aaron (and after reading his latest post primary anti Dem screed it pains me a lot), he's right, we shouldn't be doing anything to further destroy individualy owned stores/downtowns and replace them with big boxes. Especially when they already sell wine!

Is it all about national chains like Trader Joe's and Whole Fods that really don't sell wine?

But anyway, Ryan, you're making a false equivalence. I'm for doing what we can to protect all individually owned stores. Helping the liquor store isn't going to hurt the florist, even though we should be doing more for the florist.

It's like when some right wing blowhard whines that the people who bag his groceries make more money than him because they have a union and his job doesn't, like it's their fault. If the baggers made less, he's not going to make more, the money isn't going to go to him, all that's going to happen is they're both going to be bad off. Tearing them down won't build him up, just like hurting the liquor stores won't help the florist.

Ryan Adams said...

Grocery stores do not, for the most part, sell beer or wine - with one minor exception. Each chain is allowed about 5 stores currently that they can sell wine. So, for example, Trader Joe's has a few stores that do sell wine, but the vast majority of them don't.

Furthermore, there's no hidden agenda: this is all about grocery stores wanting to be able to sell wine to make more money. That's pretty straight forward. However, there's added convienance for costumers and possibly even lower prices. Mainly, I support it because it speaks to capitalism in general. I'm by no means an ultra capitalist, but I support the general notion of capitalism and barring any legitimate reason to suggest otherwise, I don't see why grocery stores should be able to sell wine.

It would be one thing if liquor stores were about to go under, but they aren't. They're very profitable and in states where you can buy wine at the grocery store (which is almost *every other state*) there are plenty of Packies around.

Lastly, I'm really not making a "false equivalence." Like I said on my post, I think there needs to be some protections for real Mom and Pop stores. I'm all for creating policies that could help small business grow and flourish. The liquor industry doesn't need that help - and, as a responsible citizen - I wouldn't support any extra protections for that type of industry anyway: it has a corrosive element on society.

If we're going to set up protective measures and regulations, by all means let's do it. Let's up minimum wage, let's help small businesses by providing health insurance for their employees, let's offer small, low-interest loans to kick start new small businesses to people who otherwise couldn't afford them.

Heck, I'd even be willing to do what a lot of people would vote no really would like to see happen: do something about these gigantic corporations. However, limiting what they can and can't sell without a legitimate reason (one that makes sense) isn't the answer and doesn't even address the problem.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, all the things you're saying we should do are great, but they're not on offer and good luck on seeing them happen anytime in the near future. Packies may be profitable, so are grocery stores. Isn't it better to have two profitable industries instead of one.

You ask if we really want to take a stand with the packies. Well, we can't reverse time and if we don't take a stand on something eventually it will be too late and we'll all be shopping only at national chains. So much for consumer choice.

This may not be ideal, but it's what we've got.

Plus, if the liquor industry has a corrosive effect on society, how is moving things into the grocery store going to help?

People who wouldn't be seen at the small town packie will be more likely to buy liqor from the grocery store and that includes the underage. I've worked at Shaw's and gotten yelled at for not scanning cakes fast enough. Yeah, we have performance reviews where they'd analyze your scan times for various types of products and tell you to go faster, faster, faster or you got in trouble. If you think anyone's going to take time out to check IDs, think again.

Ryan Adams said...

But it's not a choice. There are packies all across the country, even though in the vast majority of states you can sell beer and wine in liquor stores. If you want to institute an industry-killing policy, go to New Hampshire, aside from that selling wine won't put packies out of business - but will beef up the spirit of competition.

As for chains, some chains are too large and constitute a manopoly or something akin to a manopoly. I'm willing to take tough measures against such companies. However, having stores that sell a variety of products in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There's a whole assortment of things I'm willing to do for companies that are just too damn large, even in some cases breaking them up into itty bitty pieces.

On the corrosive effect for society, it doesn't matter whether or not it will help or hurt those corrosive effects. It just means that I'm not going to stick up for an industry that a) doesn't need my help and b) isn't good for society anyway. It's not like this is a hospital about to go under, or a private high school about to be shut down in December because they couldn't pay the electricity. Those would deserve a little help and I'd be the first person to offer it.

However, could selling wine at grocery stores help? Sure. If grocery stores card more frequently, which I suspect they will, it could set an industry standard where everyone who looks under 30 is carded (which is the law, though currently that law is ignored in the vast majority of packies). You have way more regulatory control over a grocery store than you do a packie. For example, if two or three stores were caught selling to minors you could revoke the entire chain's liquor license - what chain would risk that?

All I can say is the very few times I have purchased alcohol from supermarkets in the past I *was* carded. Anecdotal? Yes. But I'm never carded at the local packie, never... and I'm 22. I should be carded everytime because, really, I look about 22.

So, to sum this up:

-Selling wine in grocery stores WON'T be the crushing blow liquor stores.

-Selling wine in grocery stores won't lead to more neighbhorhood kids getting drunk. They're probably druink as is - and real solutions are needed to fix that, but stopping question 1 won't do that.

Joe said...

I'm going to back up Ryan on this one. Speaking from the point of view of an underage person, I have no problem whatsoever acquiring alcohol. Whether it is sold at Stop and Shop or a package store is of no consequence. Besides, unless Shaw's plans on selling those 4 liter jugs of Carlo Rossi wine for 10 bucks, (or the ever loveable boxes of Franzia), the underage community will pay no attention.

Anonymous said...

You better check with Jim McGovern whose parents own a liquor store here in Worcester. Bet he's against it.

Anonymous said...

No offense Joe, but you agreeing probably isn't going to help Ryan's case with his intended audience here. LOL Actually, that is what Roche Bros. is going to be selling, that's what the grocery stores that already sell wine sell now. They sell cheap wine in buckets, boxes of $5 wine, thousands of brands of wine coolers, hard lemonade etc. All targeted to the 13 year old market.

Do you guys think that Stop 'n Shop is going to be selling $600 bottles of Chateau Rothschild or something? Um. That would require a few adjustments to store layout and security.

Not that it matters, this thing is gonna pass, but let's get real.

Anonymous said...

But, you know, now that the underage have spoken and said they want supermarket wine, well...

Ryan Adams said...

Well, I see no point in arguing further. I can't really say anything more on the subject LOL.

I think it'll pass and I think it should.

Susan said...

As someone in the supermarket industry 0 I appreciate the heathly dialogue and want to clarify a few points. In Massachusetts an entity can legally apply for 3 liquor licenses. The larger package stoes get around this with family members. Many of them actually are big chains. Supermarkets are asking to sell wine with food and to be allowed to apply for a wine only license subjest to the approval of the local city or town government. Supermarkets have highly sophisticated in-store security to prevent selling any regulated product to those underage. The package stores don't care about safety - only money. This is about fair competition and consumer choice. They've had a monopoly far too long. A "Yes" on 1 is a vote for competition and consumer choice. Then let's all work wogether on alcohol safety and education to prevent ubnderage drinking and driving

Anonymous said...

Monopoly? Come on, grocery stores sell everything from toys to greeting cards to flowers to banking services. I think you'll survive if one little industry is allowed to exist outside of you behemoth chains. Fair competition sounds good would you can undercut every other store and put them out of business.

Anonymous said...

First of all Ryan most if not all Liquor stores in this state are family owned and passed down from generation to generation. Also since you think you are so smart and informed, in the state of MA right now there is only 13 govenment officials to police the sale of alchol. If the number of outlets that sell alchol doubles how do your propose they are regulated.

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