A bill to repeal the longstanding ban on Sunday alcohol sales is back.
The bill submitted by Rep. Kathy Tallarita, D-Enfield, has some bi-partisan support, but faces opposition from organizations representing package stores who say it would cost them money and could kill jobs.
Connecticut remains the only state in New England and one of only 14 states in the nation that continue to enforce Sunday bans on liquor sales, according to a 2009 report by Program Review and Investigations Committee.
“It’s an archaic law that’s been on the books for a long, long time,” Tallarita said Monday. “I think it’s been on there since prohibition.”
Tallarita said allowing the sales would be a revenue generator for the state. The legislative report estimated that Connecticut loses between $7 million and $8 million in additional revenue as a result of the Sunday ban.
“That’s money that is currently being spent just over the borders.” Tallarita said.
Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, also supports the bill. Kissel was co-chair of Program Review and Investigations Committee where a similar bill failed to pass last year after it failed to come up for a vote.
“When we’re looking at huge projected deficits, that may be a drop in the bucket but we’re going to need every drop to fill that bucket,” Kissel said Monday of the estimated revenue the bill would generate.
But according to Carroll J. Hughes, the lobbyist for the Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA), giving liquor stores the option to open an extra day would hurt small mom and pop liquor stores who compete with large grocery stores and other big box chains that sell alcohol. If the law passed, Connecticut could expect to lose 300 liquor stores and 500 jobs, Hughes said.
“Unless they have a buy-more drink-more plan, sales are not going to increase,” he said, adding that sales in Massachusetts did not go up after that state repealed its ban.
And the legislative report confirmed that Massachusetts did not see a bump in sales following the repeal of its ban but offered some mitigating factors which it said could have dampened the effect of the repeal.
“Prior to lifting the Sunday ban, Massachusetts allowed Sunday sales during the holiday season, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and since 1990, also allows stores within 10 miles of the New Hampshire and Vermont borders to be open on Sundays year round,” the report read.
In a December letter to then Gov.-elect Dannel Malloy, the CPSA estimated that an additional day of operation would cost even the smallest of package stores an additional $12,000 to $14,000 annually in labor and utilities expenses.
Kissel said the law would not mandate package stores to be open every day.
“No one’s making any package stores stay open but we want to give them the option especially for those that want to be competitive in border communities,” he said.
He likened the option to barbershops and hairdressers, businesses that typically open six days a week.
“If you go to a hair dresser or a barbershop a lot of times they’re closed on Mondays because that’s just a slow business day. So they’re working six days a week and make it work” he said. “I don’t understand why if package stores had an option, to be open on Sunday they couldn’t either decide not to or, if they want to, be open on that day and be closed on a Monday.”