The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

March 16, 2009

My Turn: Governor has betrayed local business owners


This week's "My turn" column is by Sharon Wilsey, owner of Best Wine & Spirits, a liquor store in Oneonta.

I am the mother of Best Wine & Spirits. I use the term "mother," as I love and nurture my store and pray for its health and success, as a mother does for her children.

I opened my store in November 2007. It took seven months of time and energy, plus an enormous amount of stress and money.

I, like most liquor store owners, felt and still feel betrayed, enraged and victimized by Gov. David Paterson.

I have invested my life savings into my business. I knew I would be successful because I was willing to work extremely hard with small personal rewards, was knowledgeable about my business, had a great location and genuinely care about people. Imagine being betrayed by the government that licensed you.

I'd like to explain the controversy over Gov. Paterson's proposal to allow the sale of wine in grocery, drug and convenience stores.

Many people are under the assumption that it won't affect existing liquor stores because we can still sell wine, too, or that we might be able to sell beer and cigarettes.

Here's the problem. Liquor store owners are allowed one license only, for one location only. We are not chain stores, like most grocery, drug and convenience stores.

When you have one location only, and have invested your life in one location only, it is not "leveling the playing field." It is, simply put, being run over with a steamroller.

When we were given liquor licenses, it was with the exclusive right to sell wine and liquor. Obtaining a liquor license is a very expensive, time-consuming process. The application itself is very difficult and long; every detail is scrutinized.

One of the biggest ironies involving the governor's proposal involves part of the process to obtain a license. As part of the application process, you need to map out the four closest stores to your projected location.

The New York State Liquor Authority requests the financial business records from these four stores to ensure that adding another store will not severely impact these existing four stores.

Gov. Paterson is well aware that more than 50 percent of existing stores in New York state will close if grocery, drug and convenience stores are allowed to sell wine.

Another part of the application involves submitting a lease and all financial information involving the cost of business.

I signed a 15-year lease. I needed 15 years to cover the expenses of opening my store. Keep in mind, you are paying rent on a lease with no business on it. This in itself is a massive financial burden to someone trying to obtain a liquor license. As an owner who has been in business a little over a year, I ask what right does New York state have to disregard absolutely every one of its own rules when it suits it, especially when it destroys legitimate, hard-working taxpayers' businesses and creates massive unemployment?

Please help our fight to save our stores. Contact me or any other liquor store owner; we'll tell you how to help.

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at tshalor@thedailystar.com or 432-1000, ext. 214.