Political Theater & Kentucky Wine
This has to be one of the more interesting wine-related political donnybrooks I’ve seen in a while.
It’s rare to see a chain of liquor stores come out and say, "we won’t buy that category of wine because we don’t like their politics", but that’s exactly what Liquor Barn of Kentucky said the other day as reported in the Currier-Journal. Liquor Barn was PISSED that Kentucky wineries supported a bill to allow wine sales in grocery stores (I know….how audacious of the wineries!). As you can imagine, liquor stores that have a monopoly on wine sales don’t like this idea? If you have to ask why, then move on.
Well, after the Louisville paper ran a story on Liquor Barns internal boycott of Kentucky wines, Roger Leasor, president of Liquor Barn, back peddled and called off his boycott: "I’m not going to fight with my neighbors," Leasor said"
Apparently, after the Louisville Courier-Journal ran the story on the stores boycott, Mr. Leasor got a few emails. He also got a few phone calls. And apparently the grocery and food processing union in Kentucky, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227, made clear it would start its own boycott of Liquor Barn if they didn’t re-evaluate and begin to buy Kentucky wines again.
Liquor Stores, Wineries, Unions, Email, Newspapers, Phone calls….All in a days work, right?
This is exactly how like-minded people attack threats and attack problems…with united coalitions of folks that can find ways to work together for a common interests. I love this story!
I love it in part because the small Kentucky wineries win something of a victory against the big boys. But frankly, I also love it because of Liquor Barn’s cajones. I believe that business should take the kind of stands that Liquor Barn tried to take in protecting its interests. It’s just that Liquor Barn doesn’t understand it’s own interests very well. They mistakenly think that grocery stores selling wine is bad for liquor stores in the long run. Of course it isn’t. The more exposure folks have to wine, the more likely they are to want to try different kinds. And Liquor Barn is perfectly positioned to take advantage of that interest.
It’s similar to wine wholesalers opposition to direct sales of wine. They think they’ll lose money or lose the grip they have on alcohol distribution via the three tier system if direct shipment is allowed. This knee jerk reaction prevents them from looking at the opportunities that exist for the wholesale tier when consumers begin looking around at different wines and get a taste for diversity. Consumers will look just as hard on retail shelves once that taste gets into their mouth.
So it appears that Kentucky wine will remain in Liquor Barn. Whether Kentucky actually allows grocery stores to sell wine is another question.