Dozens of Connecticut liquor store owners gathered at the Capitol on Ash Wednesday to oppose the sale of alcohol on Sundays.
The option to sell beer, wine, and liquor seven days a week has been proposed by lawmakers as both a bill and a new revenue stream to help close the budget deficit.
“Where are the family values?” said Fernando Estevam, owner of Discount Liquor Outlet in Wolcott. He thinks the selling of alcohol on Sundays goes against everything the country stands for.
Store owners feel passionate about not allowing the law to pass because not only is it against their beliefs, but staying open an extra day would cost them more money. They don’t think an increase in revenue would result.
Owner of Eastwood Wine and Liquor in Hartford, Joe Reverendo said he owns a medium-sized store. He is opened six days a week and already works 80 hours a week.
He said that staying open an extra day would take away from his family life and he doesn’t believe it will generate a great deal of income.
Reverendo explained that the liquor store industry is controlled and regulated by the state. A liquor store in Connecticut is only allowed to sell five products including beer, wine, liquor cigarettes and mixers. States like New York and Rhode Island who have alcohol sales on Sunday are allowed to sell other merchandise like snacks and because of their extra sales they can make more of a profit off of such goods.
“They are run more like a convenient store,” said Reverendo.
Also, a package store owner can only buy from certain suppliers in their regions. Seeking out suppliers in other districts who may have alcohol at cheaper rates is out of the question, according to Reverendo.
Estevam the owner of Discount Liquor Outlet in Wolcott, said that on a 30 pack of beer he grosses 89 cents. The 89 cents then needs to be used to pay for the refrigeration of the alcohol, rent, help and so on.
“We’d all have to become alcoholics to make money on an extra day of sale,” Estevam said.
Rep. William Hamzy, R-Terryville, said he is firmly on the fence regarding the issue of Sunday sales.
He said he’s in favor of the proposal because restaurants and bars sell alcohol on Sundays already, so why not package stores as well. But he’s also against the proposal because if Sunday sales did occur then the ‘Mom and Pop’ liquor stores may be put out of business. Under the later scenario, he said you might see chains stores move into the state and put smaller stores out of business.
Two of Hamzy’s Democratic colleagues are in favor of the proposal, especially in a year when the state is hemorrhaging revenue.
Rep. Karen Jarmoc, D-Enfield, said the Sunday sales would be optional. So a liquor store owner wouldn’t have to open on Sunday if they didn’t want to. “It doesn’t make sense not to do it,” she said.
Rep. Kathy Tallarita, D-Enfield, said “it’s the American way,” and stressed like Jarmoc that it was only an option.
“It makes no sense to be open on Sundays,” Estevam said. “Unless consumers want to pay more.”
According to Estevam the only way liquor store owners would be able to make money staying open an extra day would be to charge higher prices for their merchandise.
Reverendo said about 90 to 95 percent of package stores are mid-level or smaller. Reverendo works at his store along with another employee, and he hires a part-time stocker. Estevam has one other worker other than himself and then his wife comes in to work for free.
“Many store owners couldn’t leave today. Many would have loved to be here, but they can’t,” Estevam said. “They couldn’t afford to close the door.” Estevam’s wife is working at his store today, but many other owners don’t have this as an option
Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, said he is opposed to the proposal but “it doesn’t mean I’ll die on the sword for the issue.” Williams means if the law is proposed in a deficit mitigation package, looking at the big scheme of things he may have to go along with it.
“But if I had to just vote on it alone, I would vote no,” Williams said.
Estevam said that as a controlled substance alcohol shouldn’t be sold seven days a week. If people can’t control their intake, then they have a problem, he said.