I was strolling the bucolic, stroller-infested streets of Cobble Hill this weekend when I encountered a handmade cardboard sign hanging in the window of Scotto's Wine Cellar, a place I urge Brooklyn Reasonoids never to patronize. Here's why: The sign, consisting of ecstatic, loopy black-markered handwriting set against a neon green background, reads:
"To our valued customers, friends and local legislators: Thank You for your continued support in defeating the wine in grocery proposal. *Our success is due to you!*"
In New York, grocery stores can't sell wine. Winners: wine stores, up-market vintners, boutiques. Losers: consumers, the wine industry, and the economy of New York, to which $300 million would be added if Fairway or Trader Joe's had the right to sell one of the state's most successful agricultural products. The grocery store prohibition shelters a small number of apparently well-connected wine dealers at the expense of practically everyone else. As the above-quoted sign makes clear, the law restrains consumer choice (there's a Trader Joe's within a mile of Scotto's) by using the government to protect a handful of businesses from the ravages of the free market.
When the wine-in-groceries proposal was floated a few months ago, Scotto's and the rest of the wine store lobby did everything it could to shoot it down. And apparently this is the best argument they could come up with for why certain legit businesses shouldn't be allowed to sell a legal product:
Michael McKeon, a spokesman for the Last Store on Main Street, a coalition of businesses, wineries and other groups opposing the governor's proposal, said the sale of wine in grocery stores would not only have an adverse affect on storeowners, but it would increase underage drinking by making wine more available to youths at gas stations and bodegas.
The next time I walk past Scotto's—on my way to another, better wine store nearby—I hope to see another sign telling me more about the dangers the product they sell poses to local "youths."