The Politics of Honesty and Wine

Massachusetts is one of those places that still has amazingly antiquated laws on the books regarding wine and alcohol.

One of those laws allows wine only to be sold in "package stores". Basically a "package store" is a liquor store. The law is being challenged and it looks like People are in favor of it.

The proposal in MA to end the package store monopoly on wine sales doesn’t so much have an organized opposition as it does an organized constituency that will be hurt by the change in law.

Can you guess who is against it? Ostensibly it’s an organization that call itself the "Wine Merchants and Concerned Citizens for SAFETY."

And guess who is for it? That’s correct. Supermarkets and grocery stores that will now be allowed to sell wine next to the sausage, pesto sauce and filet of sole…exactly where it should be sold.

You’ve got to feel a little sorry for the "Wine Merchants and Concerned Citizens for SAFETY." What are they going to say? "We oppose this law because it will make our lives more difficult? That’s not much of an argument up against the Supermarkets’ pretty reliable claim that it will make everyone’s life easier since they will no longer have to make an extra stop just to pick up their Pinot.

So, instead of making the self serving argument that happens to be the honest argument, they are forced to make this argument:

Amber Rieg, the coalition’s spokesperson, said
small-business owners would suffer if more supermarkets were allowed to
sell wine. She also argued that supermarkets don’t have the controls in
place to effectively monitor sales to underage shoppers.

"Convenience shouldn’t be the main point. It’s about
responsible sales," she said. "Everybody who goes into a package store
is expected to be 21, so if someone comes in who looks a little young,
they’re always going to stand out."

It’s a little pathetic and I feel sorry for Ms. Rieg for having to be the one to have to say this sort of thing. Why not just make the argument that it has worked fine to this point and the law in place now, antiquated as it is, allows other business to flourish rather than giving it all away to the Big Retailers. This argument, while still self serving, at least has the benefit of being honest, if not particularly compelling.

2 Responses

  1. GollyG - September 10, 2006

    Having had a supermarket in Michigan refuse to sell me wine because I arrived on a bicycle (no driving licence, no alcohol!) nothing in American wine sales suprises me, except why people put up with it.

  2. Rob Cole - September 11, 2006

    When I was underage in college, I easily purchased liquor at the ABC Stores. I never could get beer or wine at the grocery stores though.

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