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Market Watch: Total Wine & More Claims Out-Of-State Discrimination In New York

February 6, 2020

Maryland-based Total Wine & More continues raising the legal stakes for the beverage alcohol retail tier in New York. Its application to open a wine and spirits store in Westchester County has been shot down three separate times, and Total Wine’s owners claim those rejections are based on anti-competitive protectionism, political opposition, and the applicant’s non-resident status.

Total Wine, which has a mega-store on Long Island, is appealing the New York State Supreme Court’s decision to deny the retail chain a second liquor license in the state. Citing the large number of wine and spirits stores in the area, acting state Supreme Court Justice Gerard Maney agreed in his September ruling with the New York State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) December 2018 decision denying Total Wine a license to open a liquor store in the hamlet of Hartsdale, 30 miles north of Manhattan.

The case has been appealed to the state Supreme Court Appellate Division. Arguments should be heard this April in Albany, with a decision expected later this year. In its notice of appeal, Total Wine’s owners claim the denial violated the Commerce Clause and the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The SLA argued that the area for the proposed store is oversaturated with 19 retail outlets for wine and spirits within two miles.

In a related case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last June in favor of Total Wine on Commerce Clause grounds to eliminate Tennessee’s two-year residency requirement to apply for a liquor store license. Total Wine has also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court against Connecticut’s minimum pricing system, claiming it violates federal anti-trust laws supporting fair competition. Market Watch has more.—Kevin Barry

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