Put “at rest” to rest in NY

What if you could not buy a book at a bookstore in New York if it had come from a New Jersey warehouse? Or fill your car up with gas in New York if the truck that brought it to the gas station came from New Jersey? We can agree that would be silly. About as silly as trying to prevent wine wholesalers who sell wine to NY wine stores and restaurants from going about their business if they have a warehouse in New Jersey.

But that is exactly what is happening. A large wholesaler is trying to prevent smaller wholesalers from using their existing warehouses in New Jersey by inserting an “at rest” provision in the state senate’s 2012 budget. This would require all wines to come from warehouses in New York. While I do care about the provenance of my wine, I do not care one whit if it comes from a (climate-controlled) warehouse in NY or NJ. Some specialty shops and small wholesalers are uniting to try to stop this before Friday, March 9. An email that has been making the rounds today follows after the jump:

Dear Customer,
A critical issue to the very existence of the fine wine industry in New York has been brought to our attention and we wanted to make you aware of it. One of the largest liquor wholesalers is lobbying the State Senate to include an “at rest” provision in their 2012 budget. The practical effect of “at rest” means that only those distributors delivering product out of New York warehouses could legally sell you wine. Legislation such as this would affect essentially every wholesaler currently in operation other than the two biggest ones, since they almost all warehouse in New Jersey, including our company.
Imagine a landscape with only the two largest wholesalers remaining to work with. Selections would become painfully limited. Prices would most certainly rise. Service would plummet. Their pro-“at rest” argument (union warehouse jobs and revenue) is simply a veiled attempt by this wholesaler to destroy all of the fine wine wholesale competition, because most of your valued New York wholesalers would undoubtedly be forced to close their doors. We have contacted our State Senators to tell them that we oppose “at rest” in either legislation or budget language. We urge you to do the same before FRIDAY, MARCH 9th. Please contact your Senator to tell them you oppose “at rest.” The procedure is quick and simple. Please just click on the link: http://www.nysenate.gov/senators. Type in your address and zip code under “FIND MY SENATOR” and hit submit. Fill out the online form with your information (ignoring the drop down box), type “At Rest” in the Subject Line and either craft your own statement or feel free to copy and paste the paragraph below. We thank you for your time, your attention, and most of all your support.

Dear Senator,
It has come to our attention that one large wine & spirit wholesaler is lobbying you to include “at rest” in the 2012 budget. They are claiming “at rest” will create revenue for the State. But, as a licensed, small business that buys from many wine distributors, I do not agree that it would create revenue. Instead, I believe that “At rest” would result in hundreds of closed businesses, including both wholesalers and retailers, and at least a thousand unemployed New Yorkers. As such the State would lose hundreds of millions in taxable revenues from passing this bill. The volume of wine sold in the State (and the accompanying beverage excise tax revenue) would severely decrease. Consumer selection would be limited and the price of wine would escalate with the costs inevitably passed on to the consumer. Moreover, the ancillary effects of the resultant higher unemployment, lower sales and income tax revenues collected, would further exacerbate the current economic position of the state, not improve it. With the above in mind, we urge you NOT to vote for “at rest” either in legislation or in the budget language.
Thank You

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35 Responses to “Put “at rest” to rest in NY”

  1. Doc, Thanks for bringing this to the attention of your readers.
    There is an online petition also http://signon.org/sign/ny-state-senate-do-not?source=c.em.cp&r_by=2844271

  2. Thank you for information your readers, and everyone please sign the petition!

  3. linked to this post in my article here:

  4. It is not part of the budget, it’s a bill that’s been in committee since 2006 and has gone nowhere. Doesn’t generate revenue or save money. Doubtful Cuomo is for it.

  5. I emailed the letter to my state senator. I hope that this bill is not passed.

  6. Another stupid liquor law. But it isn’t about booze it’s about greed. I theory, businessmen aren’t supposed to be in favor of the government picking winners…unless its them I guess..

  7. Thanks to all for supporting this vital issue that should concern every NY wine lover! p.s. for the record, the goliaths behind this push for the most part, don’t have temperature controlled warehouses in NY so not only would we lose the incredible variety of interesting wines available to consumers if this were to pass, we would also see a lot more leaky wine stored in hot warehouses in the summer! Sign the petition all! Thanks, HS

  8. […] In New York, the two biggest liquor distributors — Southern Wine & Spirits and Empire Merchants — are trying to drive all the small wholesalers out of business. Not through better selection or pricing, but by lobbying politicians. Dr. Vino has more. […]

  9. Thanks for the petition link, Mike.

    Jeff – glad you are getting the word out too!

    Cellarette – thanks for the specific link, yes that’s it.

    Harmon – it’s really unconscionable to think of storing vast amounts of wine in an NY warehouse without climate control. Thanks for your comments.

    Here’s an excellent piece on At Rest at CNBC.com (via HuffPo) — glad word is getting out!

  10. We have decided to not allow salesreps from Southern and Empire into our stores until this is cleared up. Of course we will still have to buy their shitty brands. But it is a start. What stores like mine and others should do is start asking large brands — absolut, yellowtail, etc — to swich companies. That might scare them.

  11. I sympathize with Skurnik and other small wholesalers who are discovering that their big brothers in the wholesale end of the wine business are more inclined to hold them down and give them nuggies than be a good big brother. But no surprise here.

    While I strongly support the move to get this bill killed, I have to question the commitment to competition that many in the NY wholesale trade really have.

    When a small wholesaler stands up and publicly calls for NY to change it’s laws with regard to direct shipment of wine into the state by out-of-state retailers, I’ll be impressive with their commitment to competition and consistency.

    As long as they continue to remain silent on this and oppose retailer to consumer shipping, I’ll wonder about the commitment to competition that they are encouraging everyone to stand up for.

  12. Tom – many many wholesalers are OK with shipping from out of state. The fact is, that’s going to be a small percentage of sales because wine is not a commodity in the sense that a mobile phone or even a pair of jeans is.

    Leaving aside the guys who buy the $800 Burgundies, most people pick up a bottle as an impulse buy, or for dinner that weekend. And unlike other retail experiences, most actually don’t mind chatting with the people in the stores. I don’t want to get into a whole Marxist argument, but it’s complete BS that the “middleman” is somehow evil. In fact, they offer a great deal of value. The little wine shop doesn’t have the resources or the floor space or the cash flow to order containers of wine from around the world and if he’s ordering a few cases at a time from Germany or France, those $25 wines are going to be priced like Bordeaux in no time.

    And the little winemaker doesn’t really have the resources or passion to run a fullfillment center and become Amazon. Plus, what’s he going to do during May – Sept? So the wholesalers offer a great deal of value, help keep prices lower than they’d otherwise be (!) and for that reason, won’t be eliminated by on-line shopping. They know that and aren’t threatened and consequently, with lots of claims on their time, they pick their battles. Out of state shipping isn’t going to affect wholesalers so much as retailers, and I’m certain it’s not going to affect them all that much either, for the reasons stated above.

  13. Tyler,

    That wholesalers provide value isn’t the issue. In every instance wholesalers oppose legalized direct shipping. In every single instance. They play a zero sum game. The oppose legislative attempts to allow consumers buy where they want, they intervene or attempt to in every single law suit that challenges discriminatory laws and they proactively work to revoke retailer shipping laws. Finally, if there is a wholesaler that has no problem with consumers buying wine from out of state sources, why do they never speak up when given the chance?

  14. Jeremy

    Why do you have to do business with Southern and or Empire?

    Very easy to eliminate any wines from any wine store at any time. It is time that more retailers and restaurants did just that!

    Tom Wark

    Great point about wine shipping. Small wholesalers, in this instance, want their cake and want to eat it too. I look forward to these wholesalers, people like Harmon Skurnik, standing by their good clients, who wish to ship wine all over the country, without interference from wholesalers.

  15. Thanks everyone for your comments and proactiveness on this issue!
    With regard to direct shipping, I can tell you that the biggest anti-direct-shipping proponents are the same wholesalers who are pushing through the “at rest” hoping to dominate the market. Smaller importer/wholesalers like us do not actively lobby against direct shipping because we handle many small artisanal producers whose lifeblood is their mailing list and we have zero objection to, understand and support their business model. Our incredible portfolio of top artisanal producers from the West Coast certainly is proof of that.
    In this together,

  16. Harmon:

    Believe me when I tell you I sympathize with your effort to combat the intrusive, self serving and damaging actions of Southern and the big wholesalers. Believe me when I tell you that I’ve spent a good amount of time work in a similar boat as you. I support your effort to over come this entirely unnecessary change in the law.

    However, it is a fact that neither Skurnik nor any other wholesaler of any size, has ever made an effort to support the direct sales channel. In state after state, wholesalers of ever size oppose direct to consumer shipments from out of state Wine Stores.

    Whether or not Skurnik or other small wholesalers are ambivalent when it comes to direct shipping from wineries and wine stores, if you say nothing and cede the field to wholesalers always working against direct shipping, if you say nothing, if you don’t speak up when it matters, then it can only be assumed that you support restrictions on direct sales for your own benefit.

    My hope is that a coalition of wholesalers, retailers, restaurants and consumers beat back this power grab. My further hope, however is that the small wholesaler start to reassess it’s political and industry alignments. To put it another way, that they have learned their lesson, at least in NY.

  17. Harmon

    How about shipping “imports?”

    What are you feelings on that?

  18. Harmon,

    I have a number of feelings.

    If a state regulatory system can accommodate out of state wineries selling wine over the Internet and shipping the wine to the buyer, then surely it can accommodate out of state importers doing the same. The importer and the winery are similarly situated. Both are the source of the wine in the United States.

    I don’t see a compelling reason to exclude importers or retailers from the direct-to-consumer shipping market, unless that reason is simply protectionism.

    The same can be said of retailer to consumer shipping. Yet, across the board wholesalers have opposed the idea of a consumer, having not found the wine wine they want in a local outlet, buying the wine they want from an out of state retailer.

    If there are wholesalers that don’t oppose retailer to consumer shipping, then they have not spoken up.

    I appreciate that you and other smaller wholesalers have reached out to retailers, restaurants and consumers to oppose the At Rest legislation. I appreciate that you have reached out across the tiers and asked for help. I count myself among those who happily opposes this power grab by a set of wholesalers that can and will do whatever is necessary to increase their share of the market, no matter who it hurts.

    But, as executive director of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, if I asked you to send out letters to consumers and retailers or reach out to wholesalers or to testify in Albany all in support of out of state retailer to consumer shipments, would you do so? If so, you would be the first.

  19. I heard today that “at rest” has, indeed, been put to rest up in Albany.

  20. […] voter outrage trumped campaign contributions. It is interesting to note that wholesalers recently did an about-face on a restrictive reform in New York State. Hit the comments with your take on the situation. window.fbAsyncInit = function() { […]

  21. […] Put “at rest” to rest in NY –  Tyler Colman, Dr. Vino Wine Blog http://www.drvino.com/2012/03/07/at-rest-ny-wine-wholesalers/ […]

  22. I am a driver for the local917 teamsters who was up at the albany rally. They are NOT trying to push out the little businesses BUT what some of you don’t know is the NJ,CT and places outside of ny can deliver to NY but NY CAN NOT deliver to any of those places. By letting those outside places deliver to into ny the city first of all is losing BILLIONS of dollars in taxes and these out of state liq companies know they are getting away with not having to pay the taxes they need to be paying. All we are asking is that if they want to sell to ny then it has to sit in ny for 48 hrs then be delivered by a teamster OR they can open up a wharehouse in ny and pay the taxes that they should be paying. Which they already stated they don’t want to have to do that. If ny was allowed to deliver into jersey and ct then it would be no problem but the law is VERY clear on we can not deliver out of state so why are they allowed to deliver into our state? So much money that can be generated for a state that already complains they don’t have money. So its not just about sws or empire wanna take over,its about protecting our jobs also

  23. Your looking to ADD outdated prohibition era laws created as a means to level the playing field. From the wine industries vantage, we are getting drawn and quartered in the process. The correct direction is to remove at rest from the surrounding states to stop restricting our distribution options. Frankly, if that were to happen, not much would change since warehousing costs would be higher in NY due to limited real estate to be properly located. As I support unions, they can play politics as well as anyone else. By virtue of, if at rest laws were removed in all states most distributors would find no benefit from warehousing in NY geographically anyway. So in this instance I can not support the unions push for at rest

  24. Ed

    Stupid laws in one state do not justify passing stupid laws in another.

    Perhaps, your next rally should be in Hartford or Trenton and try to reverse the at rest laws that were passed there, over 100 years ago.

    Let’s move into the 21st century. Not the 19th.

  25. Daniel

    This isn’t the first time nor will it be the last time we go up fighting. And let me be the first to say NOBODY wants to see the little businesses go out of business. Every liquor store or restaurant is a valued customer to both NY delivery companies,but we also have to protect our jobs. From both companies we have seen wine distributors pull out of ny and go to jersey because they get away with not payíng the ny taxes. Nobody wants to have their jobs threatend,the same way no liquor store wants to see another liquor store open up close to them. That’s why the sla has that law about how far a liquor store can open up from another one. And when one does try to sneak in the local liquor stores all get together and fight to stop it from happening. The same way we are fighting to stop more wine companies from going to jersey

  26. Ed

    I appreciate the reply, but you must get your facts straight. The SLA has no law, to my knowledge, about how far apart a liquor store might be from another. The “local liquor stores” do not “all get together” in the manner in which you describe. I have received about 6 notices of new stores coming nearby me. I have not ganged up on one. I moved my store 4 years ago, and just one store refuted my move. Thank goodness the SLA saw past the “we will go out of business” crap that that one store tried to pull.

    We are not dinosaurs, so I urge you stop acting like one. You seem to be reasonably intelligent and I appreciate you joining the discussion, but your job is not at risk if at rest remains dormant as it should. The company that you work for is in NY and content to be so.

    I just wish this industry could move forward. It is quite depressing to see these pointless discussions.

  27. Well on my route in manhattan I’ve seen many stores team together to keep a new one opening. According to them(not me)its a certain distance they have to be. So I had believed that’s what it was. Either way I read what you write of how our jobs aren’t at risk but its the same way as small businesses aren’t at risk if the “at rest” did pass. The two ny companies aren’t gonna raise the prices up on merchandise to the point of putting lil companies out of business as stated in previous posts. Why would they want to put their own customers out of business? See it just doesn’t make sense does it? Its the point of keeping our jobs secure. Same way we fought and won to have the beer companies stop delivering wine and liquor but that’s a whole different story.

  28. Dear Ed Teamster:
    I’m sorry but I think that your employers and union heads are spreading falsehoods about this situation. Suggesting that the smaller wholesalers in the state do not pay taxes because they warehouse in NJ is just plain untrue – and it hurts your argument when people realize these are 100% false accusations: The fact is that ALL NY licensed wholesalers MUST be a New York entity with offices in the state of New York by law. We all employ thousands of New Yorkers, pay New York income taxes, New York revenue taxes on our sales, and excise tax to New York on every shipment regardless of whether the truck leaves a warehouse in NY or NJ that morning. The facts are that we are certainly NOT “slipping ANYTHING in under the radar” and we pay all of the SAME taxes, wages and everything that the big boys do.
    Thankfully, the NY budget seems to have recently been passed without the “at rest” measure in it. But I hope that you seek out the facts, Ed, and come to understand the truth that this was an attempted “power grab” by the big wholesalers, who I assume convinced union members like you to support it. Incidentally, I doubt many of your NJ Teamster brethren would support it as they would stand to lose jobs!
    Anyway, thanks for listening and I hope we can see eye to eye on this someday.

  29. Ed

    I think we would get along just fine.

    1) If there was a law, do you think the new applicant would file for a new store, if such a law existed?

    This business is full of lies and manipulation. You are correct, the small wholesalers started the lies, by claiming that small wholesalers would go out of business. As folks like Harmon can attest to, I told them that they played that card all wrong. Of course, large wholesalers continued the lies.

    I am not sure why we cannot just speak the truth and play the cards that we are dealt.

    At Rest is dumb. Stupid law. It serves absolutely no valuable purpose.

    Just like fighting wines in grocery stores. Just like primary source laws.

    This industry is full of dinosaurs, holding onto something that they do not deserve.

    Most of the “theys” are wholesalers.


    How hot does that back of your truck get in summmer time. How much wine are you cooking in a 95 degree day in August?

    Let’s do lunch. Harmonk Skurnik is buying.

  30. @harmon. Actually the men that are delivering the liquor from jersey are NOT teamster brothers. They are reg guys with a cdl license. Now don’t get me wrong here I’ve been on this job for 12 years now and have made many friends with them. And they ALL wish they were a teamster and they also wish they didn’t go out with 45-50 stops alone. And the ones who do go out 2 and 3 men to a truck pay there helpers out of their own pocker
    @Daniel just to touch quickly question for you. Do you not think if wines came into grocery stores if would not put the small little stores selling liq and wine out of business? To us drivers we would still have a delovery to make whether it be to a liquor store OR supermarket but YES we did fight that as the liq stores asked for help with that one. And as for my truck I deliver with I have a refridge box. Most of the trucks do have them. Not all but most of them. And yes I won’t lie 7 years I did sweat my ass off in the back of the truck.

  31. Ed

    Again, I am happy to inform you of the facts. Small liquor and wine stores are already going out of business in NY.

    30 years ago, there were 4500 liquor licences in New York State. Today, there are about 1800, I believe…60% drop.

    The liquor stores that asked you to help are part of the same fossil collection that I speak of.

    Liquor stores can adapt to life with wine in grocery stores.

    35 states allow grocery stores to sell wine.

    I wish consumers, all over the country, could buy wine from any wine merchant that they want.

    Why does it need to be so difficult to buy a btl of wine?

  32. Unfortunately we all know a major reason all these small businesses going out is the high rents that they can no longer afford with the BIG liquor stores selling the same bottle at a cheaper price because they buy in bulk.

  33. Yup, it seems to be the American Way.

    How many small liquor store owners do their grocery shopping at Costco?

    How many of them fill their prescriptions at CVS?

    We live in a great world of hypocrisy.

  34. I live on long island,I have a small liquor store down the road from me and about a 15 min ride to a discount liq store. I am a big believer in supporting the small stores to help keep them in business. So again with the whole at rest its not about getting rid of small businesses like ppl have said we were trying to do. I hope ppl understand that

  35. […] New York Post had a story yesterday about a scary bill that has reappeared in Albany that has parallels for wine enthusiasts to the amazon warehouse. The story reports that […]


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