Posted on | August 8, 2012
Written by | Paul Santelle
New Majority Leader Clearly in NJ Food Council and Wegman’s Camp
After several months of good faith negotiating with the new Majority Leader, Lou Greenwald, it has became quite apparent that we would have an easier time running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, than we would getting a fair deal on the two-license challenge. Even when we met with the Majority Leader alongside members of the NJLSA, the New Jersey Wine & Spirits Association and the New Jersey Beer Wholesalers Association, we were talking to a proverbial brick wall.
Unfortunately, the new Majority Leader informed us that it is either his way or the highway when it comes to getting what the New Jersey Food Council wants—and obviously they want to use our primary independent alcohol industry business model to subsidize their primary grocery chain food industry model.
What does the Food Council think of the wine and spirits business? Linda Doherty, president of the Council has publicly questioned why our state’s alcohol industry should be treated any different than other segments of the food industry were treated in their “one stop shopping” model. Call it arrogance, or call it ignorance, but the bottom line is clear: she considers alcoholic beverages to be no different than eggs, milk or bread.
They do not care “one percent” about what the collateral damage will be to the hundreds of community-based small businesses if Lou’s legislation were to be enacted! It is pretty ironic, perhaps even hypocritical, considering how much energy the new Majority Leader has spent talking about taxing our state’s millionaires to subsidize our Legislature’s complete failure to deliver real property tax relief. Instead, the new Majority Leader would apparently rather help a select few of the very same “one-percenters” he would like to tax—namely the owners of these large, one-stop-shopping, onesize-fits-all, small-business incinerators like Wegmans.
The Wegmans Difference
There was a time, not that long ago and before Wegmans came to New Jersey, that this was never an issue. Liquor stores and grocery stores peacefully coexisted in New Jersey. It’s also ironic that unlike every one of our statebased grocery chains that have never operated or controlled more than two liquor licenses New Jersey, Wegmans owns, controls or operates a total of seven—one for each of the seven Wegmans stores in our state. No matter how they try to legitimize how they have circumvented our current two-license limit law, the fact remains that not a single state-based grocery entity in New Jersey has attempted to do the same thing.
Fortunately, this is not over. Judgment Day nears, but we have to remember that Majority Leader and the Food Council cannot do this all by themselves. In the third week of September, Lou Greenwald will force his agenda upon the full Legislature, who full well know that his legislation will lead to certain Armageddon for hundreds of small community based businesses in their districts!
Time to Act is Now
The vast majority of us have dedicated our lives, sacrificed holidays, weekends and countless family obligations to run our businesses. We have all collectively contributed to making our alcohol industry model in New Jersey one of the crowned jewels of our entire country. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating now more than ever: This is our industry, our livelihood, and our future depends on us responding to this challenge!
If you are a retailer who cares about your business, the time has come to step up and support your industry by supporting the NJLSA. In addition to Retail Membership for off-premises licenses we are now offering Associate Memberships for industry affiliates who want to support our continued efforts. Please be sure to go to our website for more information on all of these opportunities to support your industry by supporting the NJLSA!