Debate Over Wine Sales Ferment

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Debate Over Wine Sales Ferment

BOSTON -- To date, supermarket chains have piled nearly $3 million for their campaign to license the sale of wine in stores. Their opposition -- package stores, liquor wholesalers and beer distributors -- have only scraped up $857,000 to defeat the plan that will come to a vote in November, the Boston Globe reported.

The campaign will focus on the benefits and potential dangers of a municipalities' ability to license supermarkets to sell wine, but the Globe stated that fundraising reports point toward a battle for market share.

Supermarkets needed only 11 contributors for the $2.8 million raised by Sept. 1. Leader of the pack, Stop & Shop Supermarkets, donated more than $1 million for the cause. A spokesman for the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance told the newspaper that the donation was the largest single contribution in recent memory to a campaign.

Shaw's Supermarkets gave $548,000 to the campaign. Other donors included: Hannaford Bros., Price Chopper, Big Y Foods, De Moulas Super Markets, Roche Bros., Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Additional donations were received form the Food Marketing Institute and food wholesaler Bozzuto's.

On the opponents' side, no contributions have been made from big box retailers such as Costco, BJ's or Wal-Mart. In addition, convenience stores have not donated money to the opposing campaign. Package stores, however, have led the opponents, with dozens of stores donating $1,000 to $5,000 each. The largest contribution, $200,000, was made by the Massachusetts Package Store Association.

The second largest donation was given by the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts, totaling $66,667. Spokeswoman for the opponents group, Justine Griffin, told the Globe that beer distributors are chipping in because they feel that supermarkets will eventually push for licenses for beer and liquor sales.

Massachusetts Food Association president Christopher Flynn told the newspaper that for now, wine is the only beverage being considered. "I don't see beer on the horizon anytime in the near future."

Both sides are expected to start an advertising campaign after the Sept. 19 primary, the Boston Globe reported. Signs are appearing in liquor stores across Massachusetts, and supermarkets are bagging campaign flyers with groceries at checkouts.

Supermarkets contend that issuing licenses will offer more convenience and add competition to the market. A study also found that if passed, wine prices would drop by 5 to 7 percent, saving consumers $26 million to $36 million a year.

Opponents of the ballot state that ample competition exists, and with more licenses there is an increased chance of underage drinking and drunk driving.

If the measure is passed, a "wine-at-food-store license" would be issued to supermarkets. Each municipality would award five licenses, with the ability to issue one more license per additional 5,000 residents. All licenses would need to be approved by the state.