September 19, 2019 | 9:54am | Updated September 19, 2019 | 4:52pm
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is fighting to block a massive booze retail store that critics call the “Walmart of Liquor” from opening on her turf in College Point, Queens.
The firebrand freshman congresswoman, whose opposition helped scare Amazon away from opening a new campus headquarters in Long Island City, urged state Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley to deny Total Wine & More a license to open because its rock-bottom prices would undercut smaller neighborhood liquor merchants.
“My district enjoys many of the benefits of a vibrant small business economy: job creation for and by community members, socio-economic mobility for immigrants and new Americans, and long-lasting relationships between proprietors and their customers,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the Sept. 17 letter to Bradley obtained by The Post.
“I am deeply concerned about the potential impacts that MCT Fine Wine & Spirits would have on the local small business community. As a large retailer with ties to a billion dollar nationwide chain, Total Wines has access to resources and economies of scale with which smaller retailers could not compete,” she said.
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“Total Wines has a history of loss leader pricing — selling alcohol at or below cost in order to sell high-end products at a generous margin. Our small businesses would not be able to compete with such practices and it would be devastating to the largely immigrant community that is currently employed at many of these stores.”
Ocasio-Cortez closed her letter saying, “In order to support our small businesses, I humbly state my opposition to MCT Fine Wine & Spirit’s application to operate a retail liquor establishment in Collegepoint, NY.”
Total Wine opened a Long Island store in Westbury in 2017 but state liquor regulators denied applications in Stony Brook and Westchester following a firestorm of opposition from local liquor merchants and the New York State Retailers Alliance.
New York state law prohibits giant liquor store chains from applying for a state license to operate alcohol branches here, which helps protect neighborhood merchants. But it does allow entrepreneurs affiliated with national firms to apply for a sole license for an individual store under a different corporate name.
The Total Wine applicant told elected officials and business leaders their liquor warehouse would create about 100 local jobs. That figure is quoted frequently in letters of support for the proposal, including from the Queens Chamber of Commerce.David Trone Getty Images
Michelle Trone, the applicant for the liquor box store at the site of the former Toys ‘R’ Us at 30-02 Whitestone Expressway, is the daughter of Maryland Rep. David Trone, who co-owns the Total Wine chain. She filed for the application for the Total Wine store in AOC’s district under the name MCT Fine Wine & Spirit.
New York regulators closely monitor whether individual liquor store owners get illegal financial help from giant firms. Last year, the liquor authority fined the Wegmans supermarket chain for illegally controlling five liquor stores that were individually run by family members.
Neighborhood liquor merchants applauded AOC for going to the mat for them after appealing to her office for help.
“We’re very pleased the congresswoman is getting involved. She’s got a big voice and she’s standing up for small family businesses,” said Bobby Battipaglia, owner of Grand Wine & Liquor in Astoria.
Battipaglia said he met with a top AOC staffer to plead his case and urged the congresswoman to write the letter.
The Post last week reported that other Queens officials flipped and turned against the liquor store giant after getting besieged by mom-and-pop merchants.