Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voices concerns regarding Total Wine & More’s potential College Point location

AP/Tom Williams

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is urging the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) to deny a license for the operation of Total Wine & More in College Point. 

Ocasio-Cortez, who represents the 14th Congressional District in New York City — which includes the Bronx and parts of Queens — said she is “concerned about the potential impacts that MCT Fine Wine & Spirits would have on the local small business community,” in a letter sent to Vincent Bradley, the chairman of the NYS Liquor Authority, on Sept. 17. 

The freshman congresswoman, who fought against Amazon from opening its second headquarters in Long Island City, said her district is home to many of the 350-plus retail liquor stores that operate in Queens and Total Wine’s rock-bottom prices would undercut smaller neighborhood liquor merchants. 

“My district enjoys many of the benefits of a vibrant small business economy: job creation for and by community members, socio-economic mobility for immigrants and new Americans, and long-lasting relationships between proprietors and their customers,” Ocasio-Cortez said. 

“As a large retailer with ties to a billion dollar nationwide chain, Total Wines has access to resources and economies of scale with which smaller retailers could not compete. Total Wines has a history of loss leader pricing – selling alcohol at or below cost in order to sell high-end products at a generous margin. Our small businesses would not be able to compete with such practices and it would be devastating to the largely immigrant community that is currently employed at many of these stores,” she added. 

The SLA received  an application from MCT New York Fine Wines & Spirits LLC on Aug. 12 from entrepreneur Michelle Trone, who is seeking to open a 30,000 square-foot store at 30-02 Whitestone Expy., the former site of Toys ‘R’ Us that has been vacant for almost two years. 

Trone is the daughter of Total Wine & More’s chain co-owner, Congressman David Trone of Maryland. Total Wine opened a Long Island store in Westbury in 2017, but the SLA denied applications in Stony Brook and Westchester following an uprising of opposition from local liquor merchants. 

While the proposed store — which is expected to bring more than 100 jobs to Queens — has seen its share of opposition, Trone has received a generous amount of support from several Queens politicians and local organizations and she remains hopeful that the liquor license will be approved to open the wine and spirits store in Flushing.

“This will give the people of Queens something they don’t currently have from the assortment, education, selection, and the fact that I will be partnering with the community through charitable organizations,” Trone said last week. “I think overall, it will be a benefit to the Queens community.”

Despite the early wave of support, some politicians recently changed their stance and have joined the fight against the proposed liquor store.

Business merchants and members of the nonprofit Metropolitan Package Store Association (MetroPSA) joined state Assemblyman Ron Kim in Flushing on Monday in urging local legislators and the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) to reject the proposed liquor store.

According to the SLA, as with all applications for new liquor stores, Trone’s application must go before the full board of the SLA for a determination. 

“We expect this application will be scheduled for a regular board meeting sometime in late November, early December,” a SLA spokesman said. 

SLA board meetings are open public meetings held every two weeks, in addition they are webcast live and archived on the SLA website. The board consists of three commissioners, one of whom is designated as chair.

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