By Anoosha Vemulapati // MIRA Director, Government Affairs
MIRA has been working on a delivery bill to address the unauthorized delivery of alcohol through third-party sellers like Gopuff. This violates the regulated sale of liquor through the 3-tier distribution system that our members uphold. Ghost retailers such as Gopuff use a loophole to deliver a controlled substance into neighborhoods with no consequences. Our members and other hard-working owners would be fined if they were to engage in the same operation. Ghost retailers do not pay real estate fees, or employment fees, and they are able to personally deliver products cheaper to a consumer than by selling products at a store. While MIRA is not against Gopuff as a company, we are weary of the delivery of a controlled substance without checks and balances. Our members are further disadvantaged due to liabilities with bona fide employees. Operations such as Gopuff outsource independent contractors, so as not to be held liable for injuries or other risks.
Additionally, MIRA’s government relations team was also present at the semi-annual MLCC hearing on April 6th, where we spoke on behalf of our members regarding fair representation within the 3-tier distribution system. Independent retailers with off-premise licenses should not be more adversely effected by supply chain issues compared to big-box stores. It is an undeniable truth that big-box stores receive greater preference within supply chain distribution. However, our members and other independent retailers deserve equal access to supply to appease consumer demand.
MIRA has continued to monitor the progress of the proposed flavored tobacco ban in Cleveland. As it stands now, the regulation must undergo a process of three hearings by the Cleveland city council before it is officially passed. The first hearing was silently conducted in February without proper prior notice of the ordinance. It will be scheduled soon for discussion within the public health committee.
Thank you to everyone that reached out to their city council members by calling, emailing, or sending a letter. The Cleveland City Council was overwhelmed by messages of opposition towards the ordinance. MIRA is working hard to oppose this ban. The support of members by way of donating to Ohio PAC and attending MIRA events/emergency meetings provides our association with greater leverage against harmful legislation. We are certainly in a good spot right now – thanks to the engagement from our members and partners.
MIRA continues to expand its food desert initiatives in Illinois. We have had great success in Illinois already by coordinating an ordinance to offer a tax incentive to our members and other independent retailers operating in food deserts. Recently, Governor JB Pritzker announced the establishment of the Healthy Foods Access Program, a $20 million grant program furthering access to healthy foods in underserved areas. Grocery stores, corner stores, farmers’ markets, and other small retailers may receive financial assistance to continue operating in food deserts. With our track record of engaging with food desert policy, MIRA will immerse itself in this program as well.
Lastly, MIRA continues our partnership with Experimental Station to expand Link Match into independent retailers. Link Match is a healthy food incentive offered to EBT/SNAP participants. Upon completion of a purchase, EBT/SNAP participants will receive a $5 voucher printed off immediately to use during the next transaction. This voucher can only be redeemed at the store of the initial transaction. Our partnership will enable our members to take advantage of this expansion into their stores to increase consumer traffic and serve their respective communities.