Buying alcohol in supermarkets: Time for N.J. to crack the monopoly and enter 21st Century | Commentary | -- Your State. Your News.

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Buying alcohol in supermarkets: Time for N.J. to crack the monopoly and enter 21st Century

dohertyLINDA060710_optBY LINDA DOHERTY

The State Legislature will consider a proposal to ease half-century-old restrictions on the ability of neighborhood supermarkets to sell alcoholic beverages. The "New Jersey Supermarket Economic Development Act" would gradually permit the Garden State to join the 45 other states in the nation and incrementally raise the current cap of 2 licenses to 10 over a 10-year period for supermarkets. It is time for New Jersey to enter the 21st Century.

The New Jersey Food Council strongly believes this measure will promote the free flow of commerce, add more convenience to the customer, provide greater enforcement to prevent underage sales and promote growth in the supermarket industry that has seen flat sales recently in New Jersey. Supermarket companies employ almost 250,000 N.J. residents, provide quality health coverage to the workforce and are the anchors of the community. Many are eager to grow in New Jersey, creating more jobs and spurring additional economic development.

There is no question the measure is supported by the public. In fact, a recent Monmouth University Polling Institute survey showed that more than three out of every four (76%) shoppers who purchase alcohol beverages would like to see sales at their local supermarket. A strong majority (56%) of all New Jersey residents supports the change in law. (The complete survey can be found at

So what is the problem and why hasn't this simple change in the state's liquor laws been made already? The answer is simple: The "chosen few" — a protected class of New Jersey packaged goods owners — such as Buy Rite with 50 licenses — are working day and night to influence legislators and protect their monopoly.

Their opposition is transparent as they tell legislators that passage of the bill will harm their sales. The question for legislators, however, is why should THIS particular class of citizens receive protection over so many others? Many supermarkets now have pharmacies. The chain pharmacies compete. Many supermarkets have in-store bakeries, pizza shops, flower shops and deli counters. Local bakeries, pizzerias, florists and delicatessens receive no protection. What makes liquor store owners so special?

And yet every drug chain, big box store, warehouse club and dollar store all sell milk, bread and other groceries items. Liquor stores sell food stuff, too. Where is the outrage? Simply, it is called competition.

In order to protect their monopoly, liquor store owners have gone so far as to say that supermarket stores would be lax in enforcement of underage sales. FBI studies demonstrate that policies and procedures to prevent underage sales to minors are much more successfully enforced by supermarkets than small corner liquor stores. In fact, a New Jersey OPRA request showed no violations over a two year period by grocery stores in comparison to over 550 violations in the same time period by liquor stores that predominantly include underage sale of alcohol. This is because supermarkets have security features on cash registers and stricter carding policies to prevent underage sales.

We suggest New Jersey join 45 other states that have competitive liquor laws and open a revenue stream that is being strangled by the packaged goods and wholesale liquor lobby. This would result in more competition, convenience for shoppers and a windfall of revenue for the state.

For most grocery stores, lifting the current cap of two retail packaged goods licenses to ten over a ten year period would fix a closed and anti-competitive liquor system and create a new and much needed source of funding to the State Budget. Currently, there are dormant liquor licenses throughout the state that sit unused. Unlike other states that have open and transparent liquor markets, the anti-competitive N.J. liquor system leaves money on the table as these licenses sit idle and the sales tax revenue that goes with them is unrealized in the State's coffers.

In lifting the license cap and activating some of theses dormant licenses, the state would generate millions of dollars in new revenue. During a time when our state revenues have plummeted, we believe that the option for supermarkets to sell beer and wine is a reasonable one as it is in almost every state in the nation.

New Jersey prides itself as being progressive on public policy issues. NJ consumers clearly want change and need to demand why liquor licensing laws are protected and uncompetitive.

Linda Doherty is President of the New Jersey Food Council

Comments (8)
8 Tuesday, 09 November 2010 10:31
One side politicians talk about improving small business, and one side they want to give licenses to big chain supermarkets. A quick queston to Linda, who is benefiting by giving license to supermarkets, does the sales of liqour will increase ? does state will get more money by giving license ?

Why not state start selling directly so state will save & get every penny.
7 Tuesday, 17 August 2010 21:10
Gregg Burke
I want to say, as a owner of a small mom and pop wine shop, thanks to the people of NJ for their unwavering support of small independant business. Linda you are a PR flack, it is your job to demonize your opponent and try to sway public opinion. But the people of NJ love their communities, we take pride in our local shpping districts. So please stop the hard sell we love our state and our Mom & Pop shops. So again I thank the people of NJ for their support of independant business.
6 Wednesday, 09 June 2010 11:55
The "chosen few" aka Buy Rite. Is a group of mom and pop stores that buys into a name. Each owner owns 1 maybe 2 stores based on the current law. They are no different then Canals or Joe Canals that combine for a total, I think of 22 stores. All owned by possibly your neighbor. None of these stores are owned or operated by a huge out of state corporations.

Most of these stores provide service and selection far and beyond what you will ever find at a grocery store. Are you willing to give this up? As Maloney mentioned they like to run national brands as loss leaders to get you in the store

Employment; my local store, one of the aboved mention, has about 40 employees and the family that owns it is always at the store working. If they are forced out, by the supermarket, in their shopping center, that is a loss of jobs beyond what will be made up at the supermarket.

Supermarkets will have to lay off highschool aged cashiers..........need to be 18 to sell alcohol. Loss of jobs......

Supermarkets will next fight the 3 teir system that NJ has in place and has been ruled constitional in the past. Doing away with the 3 teir sysytem will be another lose of jobs.

I have no problem with supermarkets owning 2 liquor license like very one else.

i do not own a store but have worked in the industry in the past,retired.
5 Wednesday, 09 June 2010 08:48
Daniel Drew
The article says that a poll was done and 76% of residents like this idea. I can't remember the last time 3/4 of New Jersey agreed on anything.

I'd still go to my local liquor store when I need items for a party or if I'm going out solely for the express purpose of buying alcohol. But if I'm looking for a bottle of wine or some beer with dinner, I see nothing wrong with being able to buy that while I'm buying my dinner. That's what my friends that live in other states get to do.

I'm tired of my property taxes paying for everything in this state. Let's find some new revenue buy increasing alcohol sales and selling some more liquor licenses. If my town doesn't raise my property tax bill all because a supermarket gets to open a liquor store, I'm all for it. Its about time the public sector caught up with the private sector and stopped protecting every little fiefdom.
4 Wednesday, 09 June 2010 08:39
Small Business like Canals? Give me a break! Supermarkets are now competing with all the big box stores and should be given every opportunity to continue to grow. Supermarkets are great employers who provide good wages and benefits. Go to your "mom & pop" liquor store and ask how many employees they have and how many of them have benefits. What a joke. Louis and 908 obviously own liquor stores. I have lived in several states where grocery stores sale alcohol and they all had plenty of liquor stores as well. Only in NJ do we fight business growth at every turn and then wonder why our jobs are leaving and our taxes are going up. Liquor stores will always have a chance to compete with better selections and shorter lines but the key word here is COMPETE! The current situation is a state sponsored monopoly for the liquor stores and hopefully this will change soon. I for one will still go to my liquor store when all I want is a bottle of bourbon or wine but I sure would like to be able to grab a 6-pack at the same time I am getting dogs for the grill and save an extra trip from time to time
3 Wednesday, 09 June 2010 08:31
Average Joe
I personally have to disagree with both of you 908 and Louis. Last time I checked this was the USA where we have open markets, yet the NJ liquor lobby has long prevented this from being the case in their industry. I fail to see how allowing supermarkets to have 10 liquor licenses STATE WIDE over a 10 year period will create a monopoly, and honestly it seems like the only people who could be opposed to this are liquor store owners. I live in Princeton where we have a trader joe's, wegmans, joe canals and a "mom and pop" glendale's all selling liquor within a 2 sq mile radius of each other. Each specializes in their own thing, and frankly I go to the liquor store when thats all I need. But when I am already at the grocery store I certainly like the option and convenience to grab a 6-pack or bottle of wine if I so choose. To me this is a consumer friendly issue, but I guess since the liquor stores have done "such a good job serving this state" they deserve preferential treatment. It must be nice to own one Mr. Maloney.
2 Tuesday, 08 June 2010 11:04
Mr 908
Louis is 100% correct. Linda have you done any extensive research and/or polling on this matter? It's scary that you are so out of the loop on the subject. The state will not generate millions of dollars if this goes into effect. Aren't we driving enough small business owners out of New Jersey already??
1 Monday, 07 June 2010 15:57
Louis Maloney
Are you serious? You are working for the exact people who are trying to monopolize every thing in the state.. How many bakeries and private pharmacies have you been too lately? You are leaving out one very big important point..They are not giving out more licenses..So if your supermarket wants one they have to buy out the liquor store..So is it more convenient, if you want a six pack after work, to have to go to the supermarket????? I don't think so. The so called liquor stores have done a great job serving this state and them closing down will cost many many jobs as your big box stores won't put on extra help. They will just add an aisle. Also as you may know most supermarket carry what is called the top 100 and that means many, many people in this state will miss out on their favorite wine or spirit because it won,t be carried.. I think it is really intelligent for you to try to sell this as competition but you are leaving out the biggest point. Its one or the other..NOT BOTH.Then ask your readers which they would rather have.. A liquor store and a supermarket or just a supermarket?????

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