The governors’ recent proposal to drive down alcohol prices in Connecticut has been met with frustration by some politicians and business owners.
On the Chaz and AJ morning radio show on Friday, Gov. Dannel Malloy announced his plans to decrease alcohol prices by increasing competition among liquor stores in Connecticut. Extending liquor store hours, allowing retailers to decrease their prices to the wholesale value and increasing the number of store permits one owner can have from three to six were among the measures proposed by the governor.
“It’s time to take it to the next level,” Malloy said. “It will lower the prices of alcohol in Connecticut, and it will allow people to compete. And competition’s a good thing.”
In 2012, Malloy signed a bill permitting liquor sales on Sundays. The governor’s new plan further extends liquor store hours by changing closing times from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. on all nights except Sunday, which would see an extension from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. These new hours would be on par with those of liquor stores in Connecticut’s neighboring states: closing hours Monday through Saturday are 10 p.m. in Rhode Island, 11 p.m. in Massachusetts and midnight in New York for wine and spirits.
Malloy said he aims to bring back liquor sales that are leaking over the border to Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York due to competitive prices in those states. He added that the current limit of three store permits per owner is an arbitrary number that should be increased.
“If somebody’s really good, let them get bigger,” he said in his radio announcement.
Still, Republican State Sen. Kevin Witkos, a ranking member of the General Law Committee, which will hold a public hearing about the legislation, said the governor’s measures are unnecessary. He said the new legislation could actually worsen competition in Connecticut by attracting “big box” retailers that would put small, family-owned liquor stores out of business.
“Most of the package stores are family owned and operated and [Malloy is] just adding another 12 hours to the work week for these families,” Witkos said.
Gary Rose, a professor of political science at University of Connecticut, echoed this sentiment, saying that the government does not consider the needs of small businesspeople in the state.
Witkos also said there are only 12 liquor stores owners in Connecticut who have used all three of their allowable permits, and he does not see an outcry for the government to increase the number of permits.
Monica Hannush ’16, who has purchased alcohol from New Haven liquor stores, said that while she supports reducing the price of alcohol, she does not want to see small businesses suffer as a result of bigger retailers entering the market.
Helen Fang ’15 said the longer closing hours are favorable to students who would be able to buy alcohol later at night.
“Sometimes every store is already closed by the time you think of it,” she said.
However, Jack Patel, who works at Doug’s Liquor Store on Winchester Avenue, said he does not approve of the governor’s plan because it pushes liquor store employees to work longer hours. He added that staying open into the night also increases the chances of robberies. He said the store had been robbed “a couple times” while he was working there at night.
Rose noted that the state’s existing closing hours are grounded in practical concerns about late-night robberies. In 1957, Connecticut changed the closing hours of liquor stores from 11:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in response to a series of armed robberies and murders carried out by Joseph “Mad Dog” Taborsky.
Patel also raised concerns about lengthening Doug’s Liquor Store’s Sunday hours. He said that the store currently brings in less revenue on Sundays than on other days and that staying open later on Sundays would only decrease profits. Witkos said lawmakers believed introducing Sunday sales in 2012 would generate an additional $5.2 million in tax revenue, but that the government actually only raised “a couple tens of thousands of dollars.”
Malloy is scheduled to announce his tax and spending plan for the year in a speech to the General Assembly Wednesday.