Grocery store owners speak out about possible sale of wine in stores

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 9, 2002

The Minnesota Grocers Association (MGA) plans to resubmit the "Wine with Dinner" proposal in 2003.

The three-year old proposal aims for an approval from the legislature for wine sales in groceries stores.

"Allowing wine sales in grocery stores gives Minnesota consumers the convenience of purchasing wine with the rest of their dinner items," Executive director of the MGA Nancy Christensen said.

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The MGA is a non-profit trade organization that represents numerous business in the food retail industry. Currently, there are 33 states that allow wine sales in grocery stores. Under Minnesota law, however, wine sales are prohibited in groceries stores.

The proposal is limited to table wine and if passed, grocers would have to follow the same laws and regulations of liquor stores. These include having properly trained employees, restricted hours for sales and penalties for underage sales.

The "Ten-point Code of Conduct," would also be applied, requiring grocers to card all customers, have mandatory compliance checks, create a theft prevention pla and to have employees watching at all times to sell wine with food.

"We would support it in our stores. It is not an item we have a problem with. It is a convenience," said Ruth Mitchell, a spokesperson for Hy-Vee's corporate office.

Another local business that would consider selling wine is Coborn's Inc., owner of Cash Wise stores.

"If the legislature passed the bill we would definitely support it," said spokesperson Sue Mackert.

According to Christensen, some liquor stores are apprehensive because of the myths on the proposal. "The bill is responsible and it's one of the toughest in the nation."

In the proposal, a store must be at least 10,000 square feet and be a full service grocery store.

The MGA has been working with the stores and legislators on what the proposal entails. Christensen said the MGA would not go to the legislature with a proposal that wasn't consumer-based, or what people didn't support. MGA plans to get it introduced, reviewed by committees and passed before the end of the legislative session.

SuperValu store manager Jim Baldus said, "I don't think we should. Leave that for the liquor store. Let them do their business."

Liquor stores are more equipped to provide a better service for the customer, Baldus said. It's also an issue of space and not having enough room in the store to accommodate the items, he said.

Bills can only be introduce by legislators and the MGA is meeting with grocers throughout Minnesota urging people to talk to their representatives.

"Like in other states and other cities, wine would do well in groceries stores," Christensen said.

Roxana Orellana can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at