City | 4:29 pm | July 10, 2012 | By Ben Prawdzik

State to consider easing liquor regulations

A new task force will meet Wednesday to begin reviewing proposals to ease regulations on liquor sales in the state.
A new task force will meet Wednesday to begin reviewing proposals to ease regulations on liquor sales in the state. Photo by Ben Prawdzik.

Following legislation passed in May to allow Sunday liquor sales in Connecticut, state officials will begin reviewing further moves to deregulate alcohol retailing — changes which could lead to lower prices.

The recently formed Competitive Alcohol Liquor Pricing Task Force, created with the passage of the new Sunday liquor law, is the body responsible for identifying and researching such reforms to the state’s handling of alcohol sales. The 15-member task force faces a Jan. 1 deadline to provide legislative recommendations to the state’s General Assembly for consideration next year.

Scheduled to meet for their first session on Wednesday, task force members will consider several of the more contentious reforms that Gov. Dannel Malloy was unable to pass in May — most notably overhauling the state’s fixed pricing system for liquor products.

Under the current system, alcohol retailers are forced to sell products above state-imposed floor prices, which many liquor store owners complain puts them at a disadvantage with businesses in other states.

According to employees at the Grand Vin, BevMax and Bottle Shop liquor stores in New Haven, the price floor makes Connecticut liquor 25 to 30 percent more expensive than in bordering states. Malloy raised that concern when he first proposed reforms to the state’s liquor laws last year, noting that a 1.75-liter bottle of Absolut vodka sold for an average retail price of $25.99 in Massachusetts while the lowest Connecticut price was $31.99.

“We can’t compete with Massachusetts or New York on a price structure,” said Chris Grandvin of Grand Vin, a liquor store on East Grand Avenue. “If the state loosened up the pricing, it would help.”

While Grand Vin, BevMax and Bottle Shop employees said the state-imposed price floor may help smaller liquor stores compete with high-volume outlets, they argued that easing Connecticut’s pricing regulations would lead to lower prices through a streamlined alcohol supply chain. Malloy has estimated that current regulations costs the state’s retailers $570 million in lost revenue each year as customers flock to stores in neighboring states to purchase alcohol.

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