New York’s Liquor Stores Have Always Delivered for Our Community

By Mark O'Callaghan | December 17, 2022

The holiday season is upon us and it’s a rush on the stores. This is a make it or break it time for many businesses in our community, and these days some of us need the business more than others. During the pandemic lockdown, New York’s liquor stores were deemed essential. In the pandemic’s darkest hours our people worked hard to stay open for the customers and communities we serve. Now there are new threats facing our business and we need help.

Giant, multinational corporations including Amazon are using their political clout and deep pockets to take control of our industry and put local wine shops and liquor stores out of business. They want to “disrupt” the industry their way, own the entire supply chain from beginning to end, and break apart the system that has worked for New York’s businesses and our community for nearly a century.

The system we have in place now delivers a good product to consumers and it delivers jobs and revenue to our state. For almost 100 years, New York State has maintained and updated the three-tiered system and the ecosystem has thrived under a common-sense framework of checks and balances. Manufacturers, distillers, vintners make the product, wholesalers and distributors ensure safe and secure delivery to licensed retailers. That’s where my family makes sure that the product is provided at a fair price to adult consumers, preventing underage purchase. More recently, we’ve even worked with partners to modernize our practices and facilitate safe and secure delivery to the home through responsible Internet services. The balanced system works.

That doesn’t matter to the big multinational, publicly-traded corporations that have been steadily putting community retailers out of business. You’ve seen it happen with so many other Main Street retailers — neighborhood bookstores, hardware stores, retail stores, the list goes on. Now a major nationwide lobbying effort by Amazon and other major corporations is focused on changing liquor laws. These global companies want to loosen our laws so they can gain access to the direct-to-consumer market.

Direct-to-consumer shipping of alcohol would be an entirely new way of doing business here in New York, with less oversight and fewer checks and balances. Fewer interests controlling a lucrative supply chain invites more opportunity for corruption, price controls, counterfeiting, and smuggling. Poor quality, fake alcohol is a real threat and with fewer independent stakeholders in the supply chain, who would know until it’s too late? Worse, enabling shipping direct to your home makes it just one click away for teenagers to have Amazon delivering liquor for their house party. Can you imagine?

As a customer, you already have the option of delivery from local retailers like mine. And you know you can trust us because we’ve always served you. We deliver to our customers, but we use our own employees or a licensed third-party delivery service with ID-check training. Shipping is another thing altogether, and shipping from a company like Amazon would involve interstate sale or transport of product. Scientific studies of these sorts of shipping practices found that “age verification at delivery is inconsistently conducted.” The study concluded that age verification failed about half the time and that 45 percent of alcohol orders placed by underage purchasers were successfully received. Not a good record.

No surprise then that New York moms have expressed their displeasure at the potential loosening of our liquor laws. Fully 73 percent of them told a recent survey that direct-to-consumer alcohol shipping will lead to more booze in the hands of minors than ever before. A majority of them were also concerned about hazardous fake alcohol products on the market in New York.

Changes to our system would have a major impact on New York’s liquor industry. There are roughly 3,400 wine and spirits retailers in our state. They are all under threat from this predatory attempt to consolidate control of the alcohol market. Together the entire system of wholesalers, distributors and Main Street retailers employs more than 50,000 people across our state. Changes to our laws would hit people up and down this line hard, while benefiting who exactly? Global tech profiteers and the Wall Street shareholders who own them.

This holiday season, as you’re gathered around the table enjoying a toast with family and friends, remember the other families who rely on your loyal patronage. Even during the pandemic we were there for you when you needed us, and we need your support now as the cloud of “disruption” in the name of policy continues to cast a shadow over our business. This season, shop small and say hello when you stop in for your favorite holiday spirit or bottle of wine. Let’s continue to celebrate together for years to come.

Mark O’Callaghan is the owner of Exit 9 Wine & Liquor Warehouse in Clifton Park, NY. He is a board member of the New York State Liquor Store Association