Liquor outlet's legality questioned weeks before opening

By Matt Porter

January 15, 2014 Updated Jan 15, 2014 at 10:51 PM EDT

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) A battle brewing over a new liquor outlet in Johnson City arrived at the state Supreme Court Wednesday morning.

Richard Vlasik, owner of Chenango Wine & Liquor which runs Oakdale Wine & Liquor in Johnson City is suing Johnson City Liquor and Wine, a new 15,000-square-foot store being built on the property of Wegmans in Johnson City.

Oakdale Wine & Liquor is located in the plaza directly across from the Wegmans property.

Vlasik's attorneys say Johnson City Partners, the group building the store, received their liquor license illegally.

They say the majority partner in Johnson City Liquor and Wine, Jason Wehle, had a number of conflicts of interest including being an employee of Wegmans and collecting a pension with potential Wegmans stock interests.

Vlasik's attorneys also say the license board gave a license despite the new store could kill the business of seven liquor stores nearby because of an already overcrowded market.

At Glendale Wine and Spirits in Endicott, owner Michael Spain said he expects to lose some business.

"It's going to hurt," Spain said. "It's going to hurt every liquor store."

Spain said he's most concerned about losing casual customers.

"People who come in once a week and buy boxed wine," he said, "If they're going to Wegmans and doing their grocery shopping, they're probably going to shoot next door and buy that box of wine."

Spain said he tries to carry a selection of niche producers which larger stores may overlook.

"We have small wineries that we represent, and they're good. We try to push those."

Wegmans customers showed enthusiasm about their grocery stores new neighbor.

Bill Brinkman of Vestal said the location makes the store a great value.

"It's going to be very convenient for me because I come into Wegmans a lot. And if I need any drinks or things like that, it's local, it's close," Brinkman said.

Mike Slabicki of Binghamton said he likes the fact the store will be bigger than most in the area.

"Yeah I think it's a good idea," Slabicki said. "I like the size of it, too."

The fact the defendant, Jason Wehle, owns two New Jersey liquor stores and is a son-in-law to Wegmans CEO Dan Wegman were not contested in the case.

Barring an injunction, the store is expected to open by February 1.

The judge in the case reserved his judgement meaning he will issue his decision on a later date.