How often do we stop to give thanks to bodegas — the great New York life source that pumps cheap beer and deli sandwiches into the vagrant masses anytime, anywhere? We don’t pay homage nearly enough and we should rectify that immediately. According to GrubStreet, a big bad merger involving two of the city’s three biggest beer distributors — Manhattan Beer Distributors and Phoenix Beehive Beverages — is threatening the price of that crappy Natty Lite that we all know and tolerate in a pinch. To get a real sense of the breadth and scope of the situation, 13,000 bodegas are petitioning for the Justice Department to take action against the merger for fear that it will adversely affect business. So what does that mean for the rest of us? A hike in prices for cheap beer, for starters. The merger would make it so the new Frankencompany would control at least 80% of beer sales, and keep in mind that independently owned stores don’t get the same kind of cost breaks that Whole Foods does, which means the probability that you’ll end up paying more for the same six-pack you bought a month ago at the same bodega is pretty high.
The other major bummer is that great craft beer will probably be harder to find in the frozen shelves of your corner store. The imported stuff will be safe, but Harpoon may be an even greater White Whale to track down than it already is. That’s because mom & pop stores don’t have the space to buy in bulk, like bigger chains do, thus making a price hike on the wholesale end a tragedy of indie proportions for the public.
Unfortunately it looks like the fate of bodega beer may already be sealed, since the merger is said to be tying up loose ends of the deal as we type. But there’s always the hope that justice will prevail, and the government will listen to the hardworking shop owners of New York. We can dream, at least.