HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut food retailers are poised to benefit from Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposal to permit beer, wine and liquor sales on the busiest shopping day of the week.
In addition to allowing Sunday sales, the bill would extend daily sales by an hour to 10 p.m. for off-premise retailers and 2 a.m. for on-premise; lift minimum pricing rules that prevent chains from undercutting smaller competitors; and allow supermarket operators to obtain up to nine liquor licenses for use in a separate shop provided there is no interior access to the grocery store.
Connecticut is one of two states barring Sunday sales of alcohol. Supermarkets can only sell beer the rest of the week.
Announced at the start of the 2012 legislative session earlier this month, the proposed measures would take effect July 1 and raise over $8.5 million in taxes.
Supporters of the bill maintain that Sunday sales in Connecticut would preempt shopping missions to border states New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where off-premise sales are allowed seven days a week.
“A lot of people go across the border on Sunday to purchase alcoholic beverages. They take other sales with them be it gas, lunch and everyday consumables,” Stan Sorkin, president of the Connecticut Food Association here, told SN. Sunday sales and attempts to get wine in supermarkets have been CFA’s main legislative focus for the past three years.
But naysayers contend that permitting sales every day of the week won’t prevent out-of-state trips, especially in border areas near Massachusetts.
Grocery chains like Stop & Shop, who capture business from Connecticut residents who venture outside the state, want to provide the same convenience for all of its shoppers, close to home.
“Having the ability to offer [alcohol] on Sunday is very convenient to customers. It also makes great sense to purchase all of your food and beverages in one trip,” said Stop & Shop spokeswoman Suzi Robinson.
The Connecticut Package Stores Association is vehemently opposed to the legislation that it says will shift 20% of beer sales to supermarkets and put many of its members out of business.
The CPSA has thwarted past efforts to lift restrictions on Sunday sales, but says the latest proposal goes well beyond simply extending days of operation.
“This bill is not only about Sunday sales. This bill is a drastic alteration to virtually every aspect of the way we do business,” CPSA President Alan Wilensky told SN.
John NeJaime, owner of the New Milford Spirit Shoppe, which specializes in hard to find vintages along with beer and liquor, said that opening his store an extra day each week won’t bring incremental sales, and will end up costing him money.
“It’s just going to spread our weekly sales over another day,” he said.
NeJaime is not so much concerned about the financial impact of passage of the bill as he is with taking family time from employees.
“If you can go out and enjoy your kids and families on those days it’s a good thing,” he said.
The Connecticut Food Association’s Sorkin declined to speculate about the portion of beer sales food retailers would siphon should they shed the tarps that shield beer selections on Sundays, but he said that the CPSA’s estimate of a 20% shift is an exaggeration.
“Currently the package stores control 90% of the beer volume in the state. If everyone is open seven days a week versus six I don’t see how that number would shift to such an extent. I’d like to see their research,” Sorkin said.