Grocers want to sell wine in stores

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 15, 2001

One day Twin Cities residents may have to decide whether they want to transport their wine purchase home in paper or plastic.

Monday, January 15, 2001

One day Twin Cities residents may have to decide whether they want to transport their wine purchase home in paper or plastic. They will, that is, if the Minnesota Grocers Association has anything to say about it.

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The association announced Nov. 17 that they will pursue the passage of a law that would allow the sale of malt liquors and wines in grocery stores in the seven counties of the Twin Cities metro area. To inform the public about the proposed law and to gain support, the MGA has distributed survey cards to grocery stores and has started a Web site:

The survey literature gives the following three reasons for supporting the selling of malt liquors and wine in grocery store:

n The most responsible place to sell wine is in grocery stores, where people can buy wine and food.

n Thirty-three states – including Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota – offer shoppers the convenience of buying wine in grocery stores. Why not Minnesota?

n Grocers not only will be required to comply with all state and local laws regulating wine sales, but Minnesota grocers have pledged to enforce a new tolerance policy to prohibit underage access. In addition, grocers selling wine will abide by a 10-point code of conduct that is tougher than state law.

Opposing the MGA is the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which has its own Web site on the issue at:

Information on the MLBA Web site claims that "at a time when both state and local governments are conducting ‘sting’ operations to determine if alcohol is being sold to individuals under 21, multinational food wholesalers and retailers are trying to increase access to alcohol." The MGA code of conduct, however, claims that they will support so-called "stings" and will carefully regulate sales.

In a recent poll conducted by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minnesotans appear to be nearly evenly split over the proposal. Results of the poll indicate that 51 percent of those asked support the MGA position, while 47 percent support the MLBA side. Two percent said they were undecided. The poll, which included the response of 781 Minnesotans statewide, had a margin of error of no greater than 3.5 percentage points.

Fifty-eight percent of the men questioned approved of the proposal, while 40 percent disapproved. Forty-four percent of the women asked said that they approved of selling wine in grocery stores, while 54 percent did not approve of the idea.

The vast majority of individuals age 18 to 24 supported the idea, and a vast minority of those over 65 opposed buying their groceries and wine together.

If the law is passed, it is possible that later it will be expanded to include stores statewide – including those in Austin.

Local grocery store managers and liquor store owners seem to be divided on what will happen to sales in their stores if the change in law reaches Austin. Cash Wise Foods shift manager Larry Waters said that he "can’t see it happen."

"People will still stick to a certain store they shop at, not just change," he said.

Manager Jody Johnson of Andy’s Liquor Warehouse Inc. agrees: "I don’t think it will affect us because of the customer service involved. The grocery stores won’t be able to hand sell wine like we can."

She said that she expects grocery stores to carry cheaper bulk wine if the law passes, while the liquor stores will continue to carry more expensive bottled varieties.

Hy-Vee Food Store assistant manager Don Daily said, however, that he does not foresee his store carrying alcoholic beverages if wine sales are allowed in Austin grocery stores because Regal Liquor – affiliated with Hy-Vee – is housed next door. "It will not really affect us," he said. "We’ll probably just keep the alcohol there."

The fact that many neighboring states already sell wine in grocery stores means that some visitors expect to find wine where they buy their bread when they arrive in town. In fact, visitors to Austin have come into Cash Wise to ask for alcoholic beverages, not knowing about the Minnesota law, Waters said. Daily as well said that some people have come into Hy-Vee looking for alcohol.

Nick Kolas of Apollo Liquors and Superette, disturbed with the prospect of losing liquor sales in the future said, "These big stores already have gas, restaurants and drugstores. Let them have it all."

"Giving stores liquor sales is a good way to put us out of business," he said. He said that if that’s what grocery store owners want, they will have to deal with regulating sales to avoid selling to minors, as he must do with cigarettes and liquor.

Kolas said that the solution to the debate may be in playing fair to both sides: "If they want to go that way, maybe they should let the liquor stores sell groceries, too."