The Total Wine & More store in Bloomington may finally open, one year after originally planned.
The wine superstore was set to debut in the Twin Cities suburb in December, just in time for the holiday season. However, the Maryland-based company has been held up in wrangling with the Bloomington City Council and objections from the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, delays Total Wine says were brought on by competitors to slow down the company’s expansion into Minnesota.
The wine discounter pulled its liquor license application in April and refiled it May 21 with the city of Bloomington to smooth the process.
Now a public hearing could be held in late September or early October, said Bloomington city attorney Sandra Johnson. After the hearing, the City Council will vote on the license. “City staff has agreed to do everything we could to shoot for a council decision in early to late November,” she wrote in an e-mail.
Once it gets the license, Total Wine can stock the store in a matter of days.
Total Wine, a national superstore with prices as low as Costco’s, has announced plans to open five to eight stores in the metro area. The company wouldn’t speculate on a November or December opening in Bloomington after all of the licensing issues, but Ed Cooper, vice president of public affairs and community relations for Total Wine, said he is confident that the Burnsville location in Burnhaven Mall will open in September.
A hearing on the liquor license in Woodbury will be taken up at a City Council meeting on June 25. The Woodbury Bulletin reported that the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association plans to send a representative to object to Total Wine’s application.
“We’ve learned to expect pushback in Minnesota,” Cooper said. “It would not surprise us if competitors come to the meeting and ask the city of Woodbury to do their bidding for them. They [liquor store owners] are afraid of competitors.”
Total Wine’s Roseville location, which debuted in March in Rosedale Marketplace, is the only location in Minnesota that is open.
David Trone, president and co-owner of Total Wine, sees the Twin Cities as an underserved market. One of the reasons the company chose Minnesota as its first foray into the Midwest is the relative lack of competition from grocery stores, which are formidable presences in states that don’t require liquor stores to have separate spaces and entrances.
Just as supermarkets, hardware stores and discounters morphed into supercenters in the suburbs, so follows the liquor market. The number of U.S. liquor superstores has grown 15 percent in the past five years, about twice as fast as the number of conventional stores, according to Nielsen data.
“The trend is larger stores, wider aisles, bigger carts and expanded selection,” said Beau Farrell, vice president of Internet sales at Haskell’s, which has 12 Minnesota locations. “Those stores have seen success. Bigger is better.”
With more than 1,200 big-format stores nationally, including such behemoths as BevMo on the West Coast and Total Wine on the East Coast, the trend is putting pressure on smaller retailers. Some of the Twin Cities’ municipal liquor stores are already responding with renovations and efforts to highlight community ties.
“We’re doing a better job of promoting the community aspect now,” Steve Grausam, director of operations at Edina’s liquor stores, said in November.