Connecticut residents may soon be able to buy alcohol seven days a week.
The Connecticut General Law Committee is considering a repeal of the state’s ban on alcohol sales on Sunday in supermarkets and package stores after holding a public hearing in Hartford Tuesday.
Though legislators do not know when the vote will take place, Governor Dan Malloy said in a January public statement that he would sign if it reaches his desk. Jay Hibbard, vice president of government relations for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said the bill is estimated to generate $8 million in sales annually — an especially important measure as the state legislature is attempting to close a $3.7 billion deficit this year.
“Sunday alcohol sales is a no-brainer for me,” Malloy said in a January statement, honoring a promise he made during his gubernatorial campaign last year to end the Sunday sales prohibitions that has been in effect since 1933.
However, Malloy told the Connecticut Post on Jan. 12 that he would not be actively pushing for the legislation. Instead, he is focusing on trimming the state’s budget, and is “not trying to pick a whole lot of issues to have [his] fingerprints on.”
Many public officials, including the mayors of Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, said they supported the bill for its fiscal benefits.
“2011 is a year when we have to start doing things differently,” said New Haven City Hall spokesman Adam Joseph. “[This proposal] is an idea whose time has come.”
State Rep. Kathleen Tallarita of Enfield, Conn., who filed the bill to repeal Sunday bans, said that the legislation will bring significant revenue.
“Our state will gain millions in new revenue from Sunday alcohol sales, revenue that is badly needed as we work toward digging ourselves out of a projected large deficit,” she said. “Repealing the ban is a win for everyone.”
A report released last December by the Connecticut Legislative Program Review and Investigations Committee said that sales in Connecticut towns along a state border were 35 to 43 percent lower than those not along a border. It suggested that a likely explanation for this could be that people cross state borders to buy alcohol on Sunday, depriving the state of tax revenue.
“In the 21st century, Sunday has become an important retail day, in fact, the second busiest shopping day of the week,” Hibbard said. “Allowing the sale of spirits, beer and wine at liquor and grocery stores on Sunday gives adult consumers more choices and added convenience.”
But those in the liquor industry disagree with the economic benefits touted by proponents of the legislation.
“Expanding sales from six days to seven days only increases retailer costs and spreads six days of sale over seven,” said Alan Wilensky, the president of the Connecticut Package Stores Association, which represents 1,100 liquor stores around the state.
Wilensky explained in an online letter that the overhead costs of another day of opening would make it “worthless to open.”
Three New Haven liquor store owners interviewed said Thursday that they also did not think the prospect of Sunday sales would increase business.
Both Karl Ronne, the owner of The Wine Thief on Crown St. and Sanjay Patil, the owner of College Wine on Church St., said they believed the new legislation would not increase annual sales.
“Obviously overhead [expenses] will increase because we have to staff our stores and keep our lights on,” Ronne said. “But for a destination specialty shop like us, it gives us the chance to expand our customer base, so I’m not totally opposed to Sunday sales.”
Ajit Patel, the owner of Odd Bins on Whitney Ave., said he was against the legislation.
He said that although the move would not affect his own business because he primarily deals in wines, the bill would be the first in a series of “steps in the wrong direction” for the liquor store community.
“If they take this step, then the next step will be allowing the mass sale of wines in supermarkets,” he said, adding that this would harm sales at local liquor stores around the state.
The bill’s economic effects are not the only factors that should be considered.
Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said while she was indifferent toward the legislation itself, the resulting longer work weeks ought to be considered.
“I have a favorite store, Odd Bins, and I’d hate to see the owners take care of that store on Sundays,” she said. “The poor liquor store owners will never get any rest.”
Clark said she did not see how liquor stores opening for sale on Sunday would necessarily lose money, but pointed out that the revenue from increased state sales taxes would be unlikely to trickle down to cities.
“It’d be nice if we had some local taxes for every bottle of Scotch somebody buys,” she said.
Connecticut is one of only three states, besides Indiana and Georgia, that does not allow beer, wine and liquor to be sold on Sundays.