Package store owners oppose expanding wine sales

Package store owners oppose expanding wine sales
Legislation could be in the works that would allow wine sales in retail stores in Mississippi, but package store owners throughout the state are not happy with the possibility. (Photo source: WLOX)
Legislation could be in the works that would allow wine sales in retail stores in Mississippi, but package store owners throughout the state are not happy with the possibility. (Photo source: WLOX)

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Legislation could be in the works that would allow wine sales in retail stores in Mississippi, but package store owners throughout the state are not happy with the possibility.

L&M Package Store in Gulfport claims to carry more than 3,000 different selections of wines and spirits. Bottles of wine can be found for less than $10, all the way up to hundreds of dollars.

"Eighty-five percent of the wine really sold is a grocery store, everyday, consumable item," said store owner Mike Mensi.

According to Mensi, the majority of his business is done on the wines that would likely be sold in retail stores under possible new legislation. He worries that new laws would allow retail stores to take business away from him and other small business owners.

"What it would end up doing is either you would shrink down and raise prices, or you would ultimately become a small spirit store, if anything," said Mensi.

If portions of his business went away, the future of his store could be in jeopardy. He's had to battle similar legislation in years past, but this year may be a little different.

"It's going to be a tough fight, because you have some big players in it now that are really pushing for it," said Mensi.

Those players include stores like Kroger and Walmart. Mensi said those stores have a skewed perspective of the alcohol industry.

"It's just another section in their store. It's not their livelihood, so to speak," he said.

Mensi understands that the legislation would provide a convenience for shoppers, but he's convinced that it would hurt his business. His customers have differing opinions on the matter.

"It's tedious to go to different liquor stores. When you're shopping in Walmart and they have everything else, why not have the wine in there?" L&M customer Yolanda Smith asked.

Restaurant owner Michael Eastham disagrees.

"I don't think it would be a good idea," said Eastham.

He prefers the personal attention and customer care he receives at L&M over the less personalized approach he would expect at a big box store.

If prices were forced up at a store like L&M to help the owners meet ends, Eastham said his customers would feel it.

"We're in a business, so we've got to make a profit. But, if I've got to charge more just to get by for buying product from here, it comes down to the consumer," said Eastham.

It will just be a matter of time to see if Mississippi joins the other 37 retail wine friendly states. A lobbyist pushing for this legislation tells us she expects a bill to be filed before the deadline on Feb. 22.

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