It’s a mistake out-of-state Yalies only make once: trying to buy alcohol on a Sunday, said Giuseppe Volpato, a manager at the Wine Thief on Whitney Avenue.
But last week, a trio of Connecticut mayors — including New Haven’s John DeStefano Jr, — called on Governor M. Jodi Rell and the state legislature to lift Connecticut’s ban on Sunday liquor sales. The mayors said repealing the law could bring the state up to $8 million more in revenue annually, providing a boost in a time of economic hardship. But opponents say lifting the ban will not increase revenue because customers will simply spread their alcohol purchases out over all the days of the week. and will strain smaller liquor stores. The state legislature’s Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee will soon review a bill that would lift the ban, though an exact date for the review has not been set.
“The additional sales and excise tax revenues Connecticut would earn have the power to save vital programs that are currently on the chopping block,” DeStefano said in a statement to the legislature and Rell.
But others in the state are not so sure. State Sen. Thomas Colapietro (D-Bristol) — the chair of the state legislature’s General Law Committee, which handles all legislation pertaining to alcohol sales in the state — said the mayors are “living in la-la land.”
“Apparently none of the mayors can count or add or use mathematics,” Colapietro said Monday. “You would have to fill all of the swimming pools in Fairfield County with booze in order to get the revenue they are thinking they are going to get.”
Colapietro added that lifting the ban would not increase the state’s revenue; rather, he said, it would transfer revenue from small liquor stores to grocery stores, which are already open on Sundays. Grocery shoppers will simply buy their alcohol along with their groceries on Sundays instead of going to package stores on another day, Colapietro said.
Carroll Hughes, executive director of the Connecticut Package Stores Association, an organization the promotes the interests of Connecticut liquor stores, also said the estimated $8 million increase in annual revenue is “outlandish.” To bring in that amount of money, he said, the state would have to sell 10 to 13 million more $10 bottles of vodka per year.
But State Sen. John Kissel (R-Enfield), chairman of the Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee, which will review the bill to lift the ban, stands by the $5 to 8 million revenue increase projected in a December report, which his committee published. Kissel said the figure was “objectively determined by people that don’t have a dog in the fight.”
Both Volpato of the Wine Thief and Mike Patel, owner of Liquor World on Whalley Avenue, said keeping their stores open on Sundays would not necessarily increase their revenue; Patel and Volpato said costs would increase because they would have to pay one more day of payroll and utilities bills.
Volpato added that keeping liquor stores open on Sundays would disrupt the lives of the stores’ employees.
“Most of us are married, have families,” he said. “Being open on Sunday obviously cuts into your home life.”
About 85 percent of liquor stores in Connecticut are “mom and pop shops,” he said.
But Gary Gagliardi, owner of Gag Jr’s Liquor Shop on Chapel Street, said he does not see anything wrong with keeping his store open for a seventh day.
“Why not?” he said in an interview last year. “At least I know I could be open.”
Kissel said that by keeping the Sunday sales ban in place, the state is protecting liquor stores that want to be closed on Sundays. If the ban is lifted, stores are not required to be open, Kissel said.
State Sen. Len Fasano (R-North Haven) said lifting the ban will hurt the “mom and pop” stores.
But State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven) said that if there is a consensus in the legislature, he will support a repeal of the ban because it is an “artificial constraint.”
The Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee will discuss a bill that would lift the ban in the near future, Kissel said, but he added that an exact date has not yet been set.
“We need to bring Connecticut into the 21st Century,” said Sarah Barr, the spokeswoman for Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez. Perez and Bridgeport mayor Bill Finch joined DeStefano last week in urging the state government to lift the Sunday sales ban.
In 2003, the state passed a law allowing liquor stores to stay open until 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m.