Acme Markets, Inc. has applied for a liquor license for its store in the Prices Corner area at 1308 Centerville Road.
The license application marks a change for supermarket chains that have typically stayed away from applying for liquor licenses.
Delaware does not allow grocery stores to sell alcoholic beverages within the store itself. However, it does allow a liquor section that is walled off from the grocery area.
The restriction essentially bars beer and wine discounters with smaller footprints (Trader Joe’s and World Market) from alcoholic beverage sales.
To date, only warehouse stores like BJ’s and Costco, have opted for the separate space restriction.
Delaware also has a limit of two liquor stores with common ownership. The restriction led to Maryland-based Total Wine to open its largest store in Claymont. Total Wine went on to open locations nationwide.
A likely factor in Acme’s strategy is Wegmans’ plan to build a massive supermarket-restaurant-deli a short drive away off Route 141, just west of Wilmington.
Several years ago, legislation that would have allowed grocery stores to sell alcoholic beverages was introduced but went nowhere.
The state has a powerful lobby of liquor store owners, union delivery drivers and wholesalers that have opposed reforms to the system. The only major change in recent years has been Sunday sales.
Delaware has been seeing growing competition in neighboring Pennsylvania, which is now allowing beer and wine to be sold at supermarkets and some convenience stores. Restrictions were also lifted that included consumers being able to buy only a case at a beer distributor (retail store).
Pennsylvania is the nation’s largest liquor buyer and can negotiate deals that are attractive to customers.
Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores also have locations in some grocery stores, like Wegmans, with Acme at one point advertising alcoholic beverage sales in Pennsylvania via a Delaware billboard.
Delaware remains competitive with the Keystone State, which has higher liquor taxes. Pennsylvanians in border areas are also in the habit of crossing state lines to buy their beer, wine, and liquor.
Sunday sales in Delaware sharply cut alcoholic beverage sales in Maryland, a state that always allowed sales on that day.