Direct Wine Shipping Hits New Jersey
Local wine retailers are not overly concerned with losing business
Following the enactment of a new state law this week, wineries of a certain size can now ship wine directly to New Jersey consumers.
A boon for New Jersey wine growers, the law's opponents fear that direct shipping will erode sales of wine in local retail shops around the state, potentially hurting local business and costing local jobs.
Assemblyman John Cryan (D-Union), whose family owns Cryan's tavern in South Orange and stridently opposed the bill, explained in an op-ed piece on newjerseynewsroom.com that he supported an alternative bill he felt would not threaten local shops:
I sponsored the Assembly bill that would allow all wineries to sell their wine at physical outlets such as tasting rooms, restaurants and shops, in New Jersey. I feel my legislation balances the needs of New Jersey’s wineries by allowing them to continue to grow and flourish, and also protects the interests of our state and its residents. My approach is the proper one that balances the economic advantages with public safety and addresses Judge Hayden’s concerns.
Cryan said the approved bill and his proposed bill both arose from a federal appeals court decision that found New Jersey’s laws and regulations for wine producers unconstitutional because in-state and out-of-state wineries did not abide by the same set of rules.
Wine retailers in Fair Lawn acknowledge that the law might have some adverse effects but aren't as concerned as Cryan that the law will hurt business.
Both the owner of Morlot Wines & Liquors and the manager of B&B Liquors said their stores didn't carry many New Jersey wines, so potentially losing out on the minimal business they get from state wineries shouldn't hurt their bottom lines.
Of greater concern to both local retailers is the possibility of losing business from out-of-state wineries, which, if they produce less than 250,000 gallons of wine per year and are state-licensed, can now ship directly to New Jersey homes.
"I guess we’re going to have to wait and see whether it has an affect or not," said Arkady Bakman, manager at B&B Liquors. "I don’t think it’s going to have that much of an effect right away...but it's going to affect the business no matter what."
As Bakman pointed out, however, retailers in other states where direct home shipping has been legal for some time have made do.
"[Retailers] in other states are obviously still doing business so customers have got to still come to the store for something," he said.
The law's opponents also fear that direct wine shipping might tempt underage drinkers to take advantage of the new option for obtaining alcohol.
The Star-Ledger's editorial board argued otherwise in an editorial, noting that long shipping times, high shipping fees and the need for the recipient to show ID upon signing for the delivery of the wine would keep the new law from having a major deleterious impact on local retail shops and keep minors from ordering wine online.
The Garden State Wine Growers Association, which represents 34 winery owners in New Jersey, is ecstatic about the law change.
Beginning May 1, New Jersey wineries started taking orders over the internet and phone to ship their products directly to the homes of New Jersey consumers.
“This is truly an historic day that was a long time coming," said Ollie Tomasello, Chairman of the Garden State Wine Growers Association and owner of Plagido’s Winery in Hammonton. "Thanks to the tireless efforts of legislators to support our industry, we can now begin a period that will allow our wineries to reach a broader audience and expose our award-winning wines to consumers throughout the state and country."
New Jersey wineries that become licensed in the 38 other states that allow direct shipping will eventually be able to ship out-of-state to consumers. Wineries can ship up to 12 cases per year to any state resident 21 years of age or older.