Sunday sales law would kill our small package stores

Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

Lately we have heard much discussion about the governor's proposal on "Sunday Sales" for alcohol. Most people agree this is a reasonable idea and will be a genuine convenience for the consumer. Imagine not running frantically to the store on Saturday night or - worse yet - having to drive all the way to Rhode Island on Sunday when the unexpected guest shows up and you're low on beer and/or wine.

As package store owners, we welcome the opportunity to increase our sales and have accepted the fact that we will be there for our customers seven days a week. The real issue, however, is not "Sunday Sales" - although that's what we have all heard about over the past few weeks.

What the public hasn't heard is what is also included in this "Sunday Sales" proposal. Our governor wants to make drastic changes to existing wholesale pricing, licensing and ownership laws that would strongly favor big-box stores and retail chains - ultimately forcing most of the 1,200 independently owned package stores in our state out of business.

Local, independently owned stores are nearly extinct in Connecticut. Over the years we have all watched our local hardware stores, grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies and butcher shops shut their doors. The only reason this phenomenon has not happened to package stores is due to Connecticut's unique liquor laws. Connecticut liquor laws have always provided a level playing field, giving small businesses a "fightin' chance" to compete with the big guys.

Current law allows small businesses a chance to compete with large retail chains, offering the same products for the same prices. The governor's proposed changes to pricing laws will allow the giant chains to negotiate steep volume-based discounts and undercut smaller businesses … leaving the small stores to join the ranks of the closed pharmacies, grocery stores, bakeries and butchers.

Recognizing that these rule changes will force many small businesses to close, the governor has proposed creating a "medallion" system. The system is described as a sort of consolation prize for job losses caused by the rule changes. Unfortunately, the proposed medallion system will actually accelerate the rate at which small stores are lost. Currently, the number of package stores in our state is regulated based on the population of a given area. The governor's medallion system will make it much easier for giant retailers to purchase a store in one part of the state and use their medallion to open up a store anywhere they want - even right next door to an existing package store that might have been there serving the community for many generations.

The governor's proposed changes will force most package stores to go out of business. The net result of the proposed pricing, licensing and ownership rule changes will be the loss of thousands of jobs and the closing of countless small businesses.

Our governor clearly has an agenda to do away with small businesses. Sunday sales will increase revenue for the state, but the wholesale sell out to large retail chains is unnecessary and will cost the state jobs. The proposed changes to pricing, licensing and ownership rules don't have anything to do with consumer convenience or state revenue. We can sell alcohol on Sundays without doing away with small businesses.

We urge Day readers to contact their state representatives and the governor and tell them not to close Connecticut's small businesses.

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