Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is trying to chase off another corporation that wants to do business in her district.
Ocasio-Cortez, who last year helped stop Amazon from opening a campus headquarters in Long Island City, urged state Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley to deny Total Wine & More a license to open a box store in College Point, Queens. Although the applicant said the store would create about 100 local jobs, Ocasio-Cortez warned the low prices would undercut neighborhood liquor stores.
The Democrat ― a democratic socialist and advocate for something resembling “open borders” ― voiced particular concern for the potential impact on immigrants.
“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 New York 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.
“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 concluded: “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, sometimes called “the Walmart of liquor,” has nearly 200 stores across 23 states and estimated annual revenue of $3 billion. After allowing Total Wine to open a store on Long Island in 2017, state regulators blocked two attempts by the chain to open second stores under pressure from local liquor merchants and the New York State Retailers Alliance.
New York state law bars major liquor chains from applying for a state license, in the name of protecting smaller merchants. But Michelle Trone, the applicant for the Total Wine store in College Point, sought to open an individual store under a different corporate name, MCT Fine Wine & Spirits, which is allowed. Trone is the daughter of Ocasio-Cortez’s Democratic colleague in the House, Rep. David Trone of Massachusetts, who co-owns Total Wine.
Ocasio-Cortez was won over by appeals from neighborhood liquor store owners, who also flipped dozens of Queens officials who initially supported Michelle Trone’s application, the Post reported last week.
While the merchants praised Ocasio-Cortez for taking their side, it is unclear how her other constituents will feel about losing a big employer that sells cheap booze. Her leading role in scaring off Amazon last November has proved unpopular.
An April Siena College poll found that 57 percent of voters in Ocasio-Cortez’s 14th Congressional District think Amazon’s withdrawal was “bad for New York.” A March poll by the same pollster showed that, citywide, Ocasio-Cortez is seen as the “biggest villain” in the Amazon saga, which would have seen the internet giant create 25,000 news jobs in exchange for $3 billion in subsidies.
More than two-thirds of New Yorkers wanted the deal to go through, according to Siena College.