What makes Massachusetts different?

I love watching the pro/anti discussion on the Massachusetts Question 1 (should stores with grocery licenses—basically any store that sells perishable products—be permitted to sell wine?). But the argument against Question 1 on the Beacon Hill Wine and Spirits blog (a great wine store, a lousy perspective) really made me raise my eyebrows. My response, reprinted from their comments section:

As someone with lengthy residence in both Washington and Virginia, states where wine and beer sales are permitted in groceries, convenience stores, etc, here are the advantages that I see to question 1:

  • Better price on low-end/ commodity wines
  • One-stop shopping (dinner plus wine)
  • More retail outlets means a larger market for the distributors and might lead to a larger variety of products being available to the end customer
  • Better retail hours. In my area, the small independent stores are open only until about 8

I also wonder, with tongue in cheek, why we are worried about kids getting wine. I would think that the wine industry with its rapidly aging demographic would welcome any indication that younger customers were interested in its products, rather than beer and vodka.

Finally, I have to ask what makes Massachusetts teenagers different from teenagers in other states where alcohol is available in grocery stores and other outlets. Are teenagers in MA uniquely susceptible to the pressure to drink? Are the stats on teenage alcohol consumption really tightly linked to restricting the type of outlets that can sell wine? I haven’t seen those numbers, but I would suggest that whatever it is that makes us unique as a state has more to do with the byzantine state and local liquor laws (only three stores in a chain? liquor available in one town but not another?) than any behavior differences on the part of our teenagers.

My only remaining question, as a bona fide beer snob: why can’t the question include beer sales as well? I don’t think the availability of beer in convenience stores and groceries in Washington State has hurt the sales of truly good independent or craft beers; on the contrary, there’s a huge variety of micros that arguably are harder to find here in Massachusetts (where is the championship of Berkshire Brewing Company, to name one example?).

See also the related thread on Universal Hub, where I found the original blog post.