Sept. 26, 2019 By Allie Griffin
Total Wine & More, one of the nation’s largest family-owned liquor retailers, has lost its court battle to open a location in Westchester County, renewing hope among mom & pop liquor stores in Queens that a proposed Flushing/ College Point location may not be permitted to open.
An Albany judge dismissed Total Wine & More’s attempt to open a location in Westchester County in New York State Supreme Court, upholding a prior ruling by the State Liquor Authority (SLA) that said a 21,000-square-foot megastore there was unnecessary.
The SLA had argued that the population in that area had not increased in recent years and that the demand for liquor had not risen.
Local package shop owners in Queens are hopeful that the SLA will make a similar determination and deny Total Wine’s College Point application. They argue that the borough is saturated with liquor stores and there isn’t a need for a mega retailer.
Total Wine & More, often dubbed the “Walmart” of the liquor industry, currently has a store in Westbury on Long Island and the daughter of one of the chain’s co-owners has applied to the SLA to open a store at the spot of a former Toys R Us at 30-02 Whitestone Expressway under the name MCT Fine Wines & Spirits.
In Queens, owners of mom-and-pop liquor stores have been calling on local elected officials to help them block the opening of Total Wine. Many elected officials, who initially supported the chain store’s SLA application, have since rescinded their original support.
Recently, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote a letter to the SLA in opposition to it.
Total Wine & More operates nearly 200 superstores across 23 states and is owned by Maryland Congressman David Trone and his brother Robert Trone. According to critics and local wine and liquor stores, the company has a history of predatory pricing — selling products at or below cost to force out smaller competitors.
Total Wine & More did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
While MCT Fine Wines & Spirits is said to be wholly owned and operated by Michelle Trone, the Congressman’s daughter, many local Queens shops and politicians don’t buy it.
A copy of a letter sent by the younger Trone obtained by the Queens Post also states that the store will be called Total Wine & More and mentions the chain’s other locations.
Earlier in the month, local wine and liquor shop owners, union truck drivers, members of the non-profit Metropolitan Package Store Association (MertroPSA) and Assemblyman Ron Kim held a rally against the proposed College Point location.
Many of the local store owners worry if a Total Wine moves into the borough, their businesses will not be able to compete or survive. However, the court’s decision on the Westchester location provided them with hope.
“It’s refreshing to see the State Supreme court recognize and reaffirm the State Liquor Authority’s decision,” said MetroPSA Executive Director Michael Correra.
“This decision is very germane to the fight merchants are now waging against Total Wines in Queens County,” Correra said, adding that Queens is “just as well served” as Westchester.
The SLA is expected to hold a hearing on the license application for the proposed College Point Total Wines & More location sometime this fall, according to a press release.