NY authorities fine ‘Walmart of liquor’ over out-of-state gift cards

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Big-box liquor store chain Total Wine & More got slapped with a $22,500 fine for distributing gift cards in Florida that were redeemable in New York.

New York Fine Wines & Spirits — a massive liquor store in Westbury, LI that’s owned by Total Wine & More — ran afoul of the New York State Liquor Authority which levied the fine at a board hearing on Tuesday.

Bethesda, Md.-based Total Wine — branded the “Walmart of liquor” by local competitors — is owned by the Trone family, whose members include US Rep. David Trone (D-Maryland). It has had an especially bumpy ride in New York, getting shot down by the agency as it has tried to open several stores.

Just this week, it lost a court appeal to overturn the SLA’s denial of a license to open a store in Westchester County, where it has faced heated opposition from local liquor stores. The Westbury location remains its only store in the state.

At issue are laws in New York requiring liquor stores to be independently owned and operated.

Many of the family-owned liquor stores in New York have banded together to challenge Total Wine over the past several years, claiming that it will put them out of business if it’s allowed to expand.

In the most recent flap, Total Wine’s competitors ratted out the Westbury store, SLA commissioner Vincent Bradley said during the hearing.

“Total Wine is the largest liquor store on Long Island if not the state and every one of their competitors is going to be watching what they do,” Bradley said, adding that his agency learned about the gift cards from the industry.

“This was a case where businesses were exchanging gift cards across state lines,” SLA general counsel Gary Meyerhoff said during the hearing.

When the Westbury store won its license in New York it was warned about not “working in concert with other stores outside of New York,” Bradley said. “It’s clear based on the gift card issue that was not the case. The thought that runs through my mind is how many thousand of gift cards were cashed in at [the store] in New York.”

Total Wine & More did not immediately respond to requests for comment.