Cash-strapped state turns to liquor (stores)



With the passage of a new Connecticut law, the 7:59 p.m. run to College Wine has seen its last days: Yale students now have an extra hour to buy their booze.

The law, which allows liquor and grocery stores to sell alcohol until 9 p.m., went into effect Aug. 18 as a part of the new state budget. Lawmakers said they hope the extended hours will raise tax revenue at a time when the struggling economy has helped to create a $1 billion state budget deficit.

Several liquor stores around campus, including College Wine, Chapel Wine Shop, Gag Jr’s Liquor Shop and Zachary’s Liquors, are now open an hour later at least three days a week.

But the law caught both store owners and students unaware. Eileen Fullarton, the owner of Chapel Wine Shop, did not learn about the change until after the law was signed.

“The only way we found out was on the evening news the day after the law was in effect,” she said. “There was absolutely no publicity.”

Many students returning to campus have not heard about the new hours. Michael Seibel ’04, who lives in the Branford College party suite God Quad, said he had not heard about the change, nor does he expect the additional hour to make much of a difference for the members of the suite.

“We usually plan our parties ahead of time,” he said. “It might be useful in a pinch if we need more alcohol at the last minute.”

Gary Gagliardi, owner of Gag Jr’s Liquor Shop on Chapel Street — which is now open every night until 9 p.m. — said he thinks most students and residents have not figured out the new hours yet. He said last Saturday night between 8 and 9 was not busy, but he said he believes people will eventually catch on.

“I think [the extra hour is] just going to spread it out,” he said. “You’re going to lose business if you don’t stay open.”

Fullarton hesitated to express her support for the change. Chapel Wine Shop will only be open until 9 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, she said.

“I think it’s a very bad deal for any of the package stores,” she said. “We’re not going to increase business being open one extra hour, and it will cost us a lot in labor and overhead.”

The Connecticut Package Store Association lobbied against any increase in hours or sales days. It is still illegal for stores in Connecticut to sell alcohol on Sundays.

For these reasons, other stores such as Broadway Liquor are still closing at 8.

Mambnia Asvin, a clerk at Broadway Liquor, said longer hours would also be unwelcome for his family.

“Too many hours,” he said. “Got family home — to take care of my kids. Can’t wait until 10 o’clock.”

Due in part to high crime rates, state officials cut liquor sale hours from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m. in 1957, and then from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. in 1967. But John Suchy, the director of the Connecticut Liquor Control Division, said he has confidence in the state’s law enforcement and does not expect any increase in crime due to the change.

Sgt. J. Paul Vance, commanding officer for the Connecticut Public Information Office, agreed that any increase in crime is unlikely.

“I think the common sense concern [is] college institutions, such as Yale, where kids will have access to alcohol an hour longer,” he said. “We’ll work with the laws and make it work as best we can.”

Although New Haven Police officers are aware of the new law, Sanjay Patil, a manager at College Wine, said he worries about the customers the store will attract after 8.

“It’s not good — after 8 a lot of drunks come in,” he said. “For that reason we have to keep another guy to work here.”

Meanwhile, word about the new closing time is slowly spreading around campus.

“In the past I had to do a lot of last-minute liquor shopping and it was a really stressful part of my evening,” said one sophomore, who learned about the law from friends and visited College Wine around 8:30 p.m. last Saturday.

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