An article published in the Connecticut Post on Wednesday, January 12th headlined, "Sunday alcohol sales gets Malloy's support." The article sparked waves of reactions from consumers, industry professionals and store owners alike - all with different views. Who am I to hold back?
Rep. Kathy Tallarita, D-Enfield, was quoted in the article, "Our state will gain millions in new revenue from Sunday alcohol sales, revenue that is badly needed as we work toward digging ourselves out of a projected large deficit. Repealing the ban is a win for everyone. It would be convenient for consumers, keep tax dollars in Connecticut and store owners would have the option to open or not."
Rep. Tallarita can’t see the forest through the trees. Sure, the parking lots of liquor stores in neighboring states are spotted with CT plates on Sundays. But perhaps she should take a look at those lots on other days as well. Consumers in border towns aren’t hopping over state lines strictly because they can shop on Sundays. They are there because it’s cheaper. CT is a franchise state with minimum bottle standards and excessive taxing. Our liquor laws do not allow for volume discounting nor do they allow a retailer to import product. It’s difficult for CT retailers to compete with stores in neighboring states because our laws make it prohibitive to do so. CT has yet to catch up to the 21st century. A good wine retailer has to stay competitive with other national retailers. It’s not a local game anymore. Technology has changed that. And if Rep. Tallarita thinks that opening or not is an option she clearly has no experience in wine retail. The margins and cut-throat competitive nature of the business dictates that if you CAN open, you DO open. The customer WILL go somewhere else that is open. Just check the lots of the stores in neighboring states on Sunday.
State Rep. Karen Jarmoc, D- Enfield is also supporter of Sunday sales citing a 2009 study undertaken by the Office of Fiscal Analysis, a non-partisan office that assists the state. The study, which I can’t find anywhere, found that Connecticut could gain an additional $5 million in revenue if stores were able to open on Sunday. That’s not enough to cover even the postage line of CT’s 2011 budget. I did find a study done in 2008 by the Office of Legislation Research that states there are 1050 package stores in CT. 136 of the those stores where determined to be located within 3 miles of a state border. In order to generate $5 million in added revenue, CT package stores would have to generate about $83.5 million in Sunday sales, $1.6M per Sunday. But wait, there’s more. Grocery stores will be allowed to sell on Sunday too (it’s a different permit so it’s not included in the package store count). I count over 90 Stop & Shop grocery stores alone in CT. So either the Office of Fiscal Analysis needs to do more research or the government suspects that the only big box retailers and those close to the border will open Sunday. Or maybe they are afraid of what all retailers are afraid of, the change will dilute weekend business and cause hundreds of small retail stores to close, adding to the unemployment numbers. Of course, the report did say “revenue” not “gain”.
The truth is I should probably support the bill. I operate in a community whose Saturdays are filled with sports practices, dance recitals and tackling the weekend honey-do list. I could envision Sunday sales receipts to be quite lucrative. But giving up my Sundays is something I’m just not really thrilled about. Neither are my kids or my wife. However, I’m willing to change if the state is willing to revise the liquor laws. If the Sunday law is repealed, then give retailers the opportunities to compete with the rest of the national market. Lower the taxes on alcohol. Allow distributors to offer volume discounting. Allow retailers to purchase small amounts of wines directly from the producer. Let’s get CT and its liquor laws into the 21st century and bring commerce back to CT.