Connecticut’s package store owners were breathing a sigh of relief today upon learning that a bill to allow grocery stores to sell wine was never brought up for a vote before the General Law Committee’s deadline.
“The votes weren’t there,” Rep. Michael D’Agostino, who co-chairs the committee, said.
He said he considered bringing the bill up for a vote and letting it be defeated, but he preferred to let both sides of the issue go back and hash it out before the next legislative session.
However, he warned he’s not inclined to put it up for a vote next year unless the grocery stores can convince enough lawmakers that it should pass.
“People can change their minds,” D’Agostino said.
He said he’s seen movement on other hotly debated topics in the past, but he doesn’t see the same sort of evolution yet with this concept.
That being said, D’Agostino was a supporter of giving grocery stores the opportunity to sell wine because it’s what’s best for consumers.
The bill created a lot of buzz at the beginning of the session when package store owners flooded the atrium of the Legislative Office Building seeking to protect their businesses.
Connecticut Package Stores Association Executive Director Jean Cronin argued the bill would pull the rug out from under liquor store owners who built their business models and projected revenues and expenses based on the rules as they stand now.
“This would completely change the rules for governing how alcoholic beverages are sold in this state,” Cronin said. “Overnight, it would allow more than 850 grocery beer permit outlets to possibly expand to wine. This would represent a 68% increase in venues that can sell the most profitable product in a package store. This is a game-changer and it will completely upend business plans.”
The grocery store chains, who hired Gaffney Benett this year to help with their lobbying, argued it wouldn’t hurt the package store owners, but would bring Connecticut in line with 42 other states that currently allow it.
“An overwhelming majority of the public supports the sale of wine in supermarkets. While the votes aren’t there in this particular legislative committee at this time, we believe that in the future, when the issue comes to a vote of the full legislature, this consumer-friendly bill will pass,” Wayne Pesce, executive director of the CT Food Association, said.
Michael D’Amour, a Somers resident and chief operating officer of Big Y Foods, said the change would extend a convenience to consumers, who frequently ask store managers “where’s the wine?”
“We’re not looking to put anyone out of business, rather we want the opportunity to sell the products our customers are specifically requesting we carry,” D’Amour said in written testimony.