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Proposed Liquor Changes Anger Local Merchants

Over the weekend, Gov. Dannel Malloy proposed changing Connecticut's liquor laws to allow alcohol sales on Sundays and to allow bars to be open until 2 a.m. every night of the week.

Over the weekend, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to among other things allow package and grocery stores to sell alcohol on Sundays and allow bars to stay open until 2 a.m. every night of the week.

According to the governor, Connecticut liquor stores lose approximately $570 million annually in sales revenue to neighboring New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island as thirsty customers cross state lines to buy their booze on Sundays.

But local liquor store owners questioned Malloy’s proposal, saying they didn’t think their stores would see increased revenue at the end of the day.

“I’ve been doing this for 35 years, I’ve put a lot of hours in,” said Larry Vavreck, owner of in Weston. “I don’t see the value of putting in more hours, spending more money on electricity and employees. At the end of the day, I don’t think it will produce a lot more revenue for the state or for me.”

, who owns in Redding, said yesterday that people who live in Connecticut are used to buying their alcohol for Sunday on Fridays and Saturdays.

“There’s no big business to be garnered on a Sunday,” he said, adding the tax revenue the state expects to bring doesn't do much to offset Hartford's budget gaps. “The total revenue they’re looking to gain is $8 million. In the scheme of the overall budget, it seems very low. It seems kind of wasteful from a retailer's standpoint.”

Malloy’s proposal also allows liquor stores to be open on holidays.

“I’m not happy. I don’t see anything positive in [his proposal] for me,” Vavreck said. “Maybe [Gov. Malloy] would like to work on Sundays and the 4th of July and Memorial Day, too. If he’d come down here, I’d love to have him as an employee.”

Rodney Stavert, who owns , said the proposal would likely hurt his business as well.

“For a small rural store like this, it’s bad news,” he said. “We’re open six full days and we really don’t want to be open on the seventh. I’d imagine we’d get the same business over two days with more overhead. I hope it doesn’t go through.”

Vavreck said Malloy’s proposal would allow liquor stores to sells other items such as chips and olives to go in martinis.

“It wouldn’t add up to much,” he said. “It’s almost a slap in the face.”

Vavreck said if Malloy’s proposal passes, larger stores will likely put smaller ones out of business.

“Costco and such will absolutely ruin my life,” he said.

DeNicola said he feels bad for store owners who are supposedly losing business to stores across state lines, but said for the most part, those stores are "out in the middle of nowhere" where "there are more deer and cows than human beings." Those stores, he said, shouldn't be in business in the first place.

"They're losing business to states like Massachusetts because it's more wide open in terms of pricing and sales tax," he said. "They're not losing business because they're not open on Sunday. They're losing business because guys in Massachusetts and New York get more favorable prices. I'd be curious as to what the governor of this state should have to say about that."

No action was taken on a similar bill introduced by Rep. Linda Schofield (D-Simsbury) in the Connecticut General Assembly last January.

Bars open later

Currently, Connecticut’s bars can remain open until 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Malloy called for bars to be open until 2 a.m. every day of the week.

“I can’t tell you how much more dangerous that is,” DeNicola said. “It does not make sense as a taxpayer or a citizen of this state. Who's politicking for this? There will be more DUIs, more accidents. Sorry it’s come to that — the state needing to jack up revenue with more state troopers out on the highway, throwing more people into our prisons." Besides more revenue for the state through penalities and fees, "all that will generate is more money for lawyers and more money for overtime for state police, which is about the last place we need to be paying.”

Blue Laws

According to examiner.com, Connecticut’s Blue Laws — which can be traced back to the Puritans — were first enforced in Connecticut in 1655 when the state was still a colony. Sales were officially prohibited on Sundays in 1933, when the power to regulate booze transactions was delegated back to the states following the repeal of Prohibition.

The Blue Laws were slightly tinkered with in 2003, when stores were allowed to stay open an extra hour until 9 p.m. Today, many local stores still shut at 8 p.m. Malloy's new proposal would also allow stores to remain open until 10 p.m. if they so chose.

Connecticut is one of a handful of states which does not allow liquor sales at all on Sundays. Some states which allow liquor sales on Sunday have stricter laws about sales on that day compared to other days of the week, while other states treat the day as any other day.

Specifics of what Malloy's office called "modernizing Connecticut's Liquor Laws" include:

  • The creation of a statewide "medallion" system (in addition to standard package store licenses), which will be given to all current package store owners to reflect their right to expanded business options.
  • Package and grocery stores will be allowed to sell alcohol until 10 p.m. if they choose to do so.
  • Restaurants and bars can stay open and serve alcohol until 2 a.m. (subject to local ordinances).
  • Some small convenience stores will be given the option of selling beer.
  • Package stores will be allowed to sell goods in addition to alcohol, including snack food, cheese, crackers, chips and other items thought to be "complementary" to alcohol consumption.
  • Price posting, minimum bottle and quantity discount laws will be eliminated.
  • Grocery stores will be allowed to operate separate package stores.
  • One person or LLC will be able to operate more than two package stores through the purchase of a medallion.

(Editor's note: Julian McKinley contributed to this article.)

Paul January 18, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Don't owners of their own businesses have the option not to open on Sunday? If rural area stores don't think their business will grow then don't open what's the problem?
mike alger January 19, 2012 at 01:28 PM
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The Mirror January 23, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Spot on, Paul. No law is forcing them to stay open. While I sympathize with their fear they have to work even more days, no one is forcing that to happen. I believe that giving consumers more choice is a good thing, not bad.

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