Posted on | March 1, 2013
Written by | Paul Santelle
Judgment Day is Coming to the Keystone State
Peering across the Delaware, Governor Tom Corbett has announced a bold plan for Pennsylvania to replace state-owned liquor stores with twice as many privately owned stores, and to expand the sale of beer and wine to convenience stores, supermarkets and even pharmacies. His plan would allow for a chain retail model as well as for beer to be sold in a variety of smaller quantities, similar to New Jersey.
Our fellow retailers on the Jersey side are obviously concerned by these proposed changes that would unquestionably affect the viability of the current dual market many of them enjoy near the state border crossings. The NJLSA is concerned about the possibility of the “chain grocery model” being adopted. Although completing the privatization process could take as many as four years, his plan suggests that closing state-owned stores could begin within six months. We will keep close tabs on this situation.
NJLSA Files Lawsuit Against Vineland
In February, the NJLSA filed a lawsuit against the city of Vineland relating to the city’s plan to issue a new ‘44’ license as part of a redevelopment deal for a ShopRite grocery store. This would have been the first time such a license would have been issued under these circumstances; and the manner in which this deal was executed by the City Council without any public notice or public debate was clearly a violation of the State Municipal Ordinance Act.
In consideration of the ongoing two-license challenge debate, it should be clear that we have a genuine concern about the ability to create new distribution licenses under the façade of a redevelopment deal for a grocery store. Obviously, the accommodation of creating a new license as well as the establishment of a new uneven playing field would significantly devalue all existing licenses. The end result would be the unacceptable practice of a public entity interfering with long established private marketplace while stacking the deck to a newcomer’s advantage!
Two-License Challenge Cued Up For Crescendo
One year ago, after passage of the Direct Shipping Winery-to-Consumer legislation, I wrote in my March column:
Common sense would be for our Legislative leadership to pull back on the reins of any further legislation that could impact our industry until after the impact of direct shipping is measured a year or more down the road. Almost like clockwork, Lou Greenwald is trying to force his hand down our throat by pushing his twolicense agenda before we can assess the damage from last year’s Direct Shipping legislation.
Considering that 2013 is an election year, there is little doubt that the Majority Leader’s agenda will go a long way when it comes to fundraising. However, this is not the time. The first step has got to start with agreeing on the definition of a level playing field and a stable marketplace.
Currently, the Assemblyman’s legislation only serves a handful of out-of-state grocery chains that have been supporting it. And now, even the ShopRite group (the state’s largest employer and provider of grocery products) has gotten off the bench and now opposes this legislation, realizing that it could put many of their stores at a disadvantage with out-of-state competitors.
The NJLSA finally has our own legislation that would protect our livelihoods, and we are totally committed to pursuing its passage. We need you now more than ever to support our efforts by sending in your dues and PAC contributions.