It’s a no-go for Total Wine & More, as the New York State Liquor Authority on June 10 rejected the mega-corporation’s plans to open a store in College Point.
For local small mom-and-pop business merchants —many of whom are immigrant families — it’s a win against the “Walmart of liquor” that would have undoubtedly cost thousands of jobs, a shutdown of businesses, and loss of customers, according to State Assemblyman Ron Kim.
“Many of the mom-and-pop liquor stores are operated by working-class entrepreneurs who have been able to survive, even as their counterparts in other industries, suffer from the encroachment of large, predatory corporations and monopolistic franchises,” said Kim, who was the first elected official to stand up to Total Wine. “This was another extraction of wealth from local communities back into the hands of mega-monopolies. I am thrilled we pushed back and won.”
Total Wine & More, based in Maryland, owns nearly 200 stores in 23 states nationwide with a $3 billion revenue, according to the Metropolitan Package Store Association (MetroPSA), which represents family-owned and independent beverage retailers.
Two years ago, Total Wine & More opened in Westbury, Long Island, where local businesses there reported a revenue hit of more than 30 percent. Some even closed. After failing to obtain a liquor license in Westchester County, the chain filed a lawsuit against the NYS Liquor Authority (SLA).
The company appealed SLA’s decision and lost, but appealed the court’s decision last month and is waiting for a ruling.
Meanwhile, Michelle Trone, the daughter of Total Wine & More’s co-owner, Congressman David Trone of Maryland, had applied for a wine and liquor license at 30-02 Whitestone Expressway, the former site of Toys ‘R’ Us that has remained vacant.
Trone, owner of MCT New York Fine Wines & Spirits LLC, had planned to open two stores side by side — one licensed to sell wine and spirits (9,000-plus and 4,500-plus liquor items) and the other to sell beer and New York state food products (1,400-plus New York state wines, 350-plus New York state spirits and 50-plus New York state ciders) to offer customers a convenient experience.
While Trone gained support for the store opening in Queens, which would’ve been solely operated by her, she also faced opposition from local business owners who rallied against Total Wine in September.
Trone told QNS she is “disappointed in the SLA’s decision” to reject the expansion of Total Wine in Queens and is considering other possible options such as filing an appeal or searching for a new location.
Michael Correra, executive director of MetroPSA, said in Queens alone, there are 350 liquor stores and a new 30,000 square-foot liquor store is simply not needed.
“The community concerns were exemplified in the tremendous amount of opposition letters filed by local elected officials, including many that had originally, unwittingly supported the Total application without understanding more about the store’s size and the business’s intentions,” Correra said.
According to Correra, in each of the cases, the SLA denied the applications because it was readily apparent that the population was well served by the existing liquor stores in the area.
“Monopolies are not good in any business, especially in retail liquor stores, but that is exactly what Total wants in New York,” Correra said. “The addition of price-gouging megastores would eliminate hundreds of local stores whose owners are part of the fabric of their community.”