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Merger could squeeze NYC beer sellers, bodegas

Plans to merge two of New York City's largest beer distributors could lead to highMiles Dixon/Metro

Plans to merge two of New York City's largest beer distributors could lead to higher six-pack prices at New York’s all-night food stores, and trade groups representing smaller distributors and bodega owners say they want the federal government to block the merger.

“The growing beer monopoly is a threat to both independent beer distributors and the 13,000 bodegas they help to service in NYC,” read a memo from the Bodega Association.

Major distributors Manhattan Beer and Phoenix/Beehive began to inform customers in the fall of plans to combine forces in early 2015.

Manhattan, which has facilities in Bronx, Queens, Long Island and Hudson Valley, distributes brands including Blue Moon, Corona, Sam Adams and Modelo. Phoenix/Beehive in Kings County distributes Heineken, Presidente and Brooklyn Brewery.

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One distribution company manager in Brooklyn, who did not want to be identified by name, told Metro word of the merger made first made rounds in October. Since then, the owner said, everything has been hearsay or rumors.

"Business like us are already dropping like flies," the Brooklyn distributer said, adding that it had begun to prepare for the worst. "It's already hard enough for us to compete."

As for bodega owners, a small sample of owners in Manhattan's East Village isn't paying as much attention.

Park Wan Hee, owner of Bueno East Mart on Avenue A said he had only recently heard about the merger. Hee uses both companies in question, but said he wasn't too worried about potential price hikes.

"We sell a lot of beer," Hee added, and that even if prices on his end go up, "people will still buy."

Myra and Rafael Rosa opened Santa Barbara Deli on Avenue B in 1993. Unlike Hee, Myra said she could see some blowback on her business.

"If they raise the price too much, people don't want to pay," she said, "At the end of the day they can do what they want, but I hope they keep prices stable."

Zach Mack offers both beers to go or on tap at Alphabet City Beer Co. on Avenue C, and said he only heard about the merger by way of some news reports, and uses Manhattan Beer mostly for for niche or craft brews.

"I don't think we've seen what it actually means for someone like me yet," Mack said. "And I definitely don't think we've seen what it means for customers."

 
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