By SUSAN HAIGH, Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ The battle over allowing retail alcohol sales on Sundays resumed at the Connecticut Capitol on Tuesday, pitting the liquor industry and supermarkets who favor the move against package store owners who say an extra day is bad for business.

The General Assembly’s General Law Committee held a public hearing on the latest legislation that would end the practice of forbidding purchases on Sundays. Connecticut is one of three states, including Georgia and Indiana, with such a law on the books.

While the issue is a perennial one at the capitol in Hartford, this year it stands a better chance of passage because Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has said he’d sign it. Sunday sales also are being touted by supporters as a possible revenue generator for the state, a tempting idea considering the state faces massive budget deficit problems.

Jay Hibbard, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said 14 states since 2002, including neighboring Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, have seen increases in sales tax revenues after allowing retail sales of alcohol on Sundays.

“There’s simply no reason that Connecticut would be any different,” he said.

Carroll Hughes, lobbyist for the Connecticut Package Store Association, dismissed estimated revenue gains from a recent legislative study as flawed. The Program Review and Investigations Committee has said the state could realize $7.5 million to $8 million in additional tax revenue from Sunday sales. Another legislative estimate was $3.6 million.

Hughes questioned whether consumers will buy more alcohol if Sunday sales are allowed in Connecticut. He said it will cost his member stores money because they’ll have to staff their stores for a seventh day. Even though they wouldn’t be required to open, the store owners said they would feel the need to open because of competition, especially from supermarkets that sell beer.

“These stores can’t stay open if we go to $12,000 or $14,000 for that one day,” Hughes said, referring to the estimated cost to keep a liquor store open one more day.

Jim Ransford, who owns Connecticut Beverage Mart, with stores in New Britain and Middletown, said he has a large operation but he still opposes Sunday sales. He said it’s a bad business decision.

“If I felt that being open on Sunday would significantly increase my bottom line, I’d be the first person to promote Sunday sales,” he said.

Hibbard, whose organization represents the Norwalk-based Diageo liquor company, said Sunday sales in Connecticut would provide an added convenience to consumers and help recapture business lost to stores in border states.

“That opens the marketplace to free and fair competition,” he said.
Rep. Kathleen Tallarita, D-Enfield, whose district borders Massachusetts, agreed. She said store owners should have the opportunity to compete with outlets just miles away.

“This is about being fair,” she said. “We’re not saying you have to be open seven days a week.
Representatives of substance-abuse treatment organizations as well as the Connecticut Coalition to Stop Underage

Drinking voiced opposition to the Sunday sales bill, arguing there are potential negative consequences to allowing greater access to alcohol.

The bill awaits committee action.

Also on Tuesday, the same committee heard testimony on a bill that would allow “gift basket retailers,” such as florists, to sell wine with their baskets. The bill creates a new gift basket retailer license, with a fee of $500. Other bills under consideration would allow local wines to be sold at farmers’ markets and create a Connecticut Beer Trail to promote local brews.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (3)
  1. Irma Hart says:

    Instead of counting the dollars the state is “losing” by the current blue law, count the number of deaths caused by drunken drivers in the past year alone. Liquor isn’t bread, milk or baby formula nor does it have a short expiration date. Buy your beer during the week.

    Selling liquor on Sundays could put smaller stores out of business. Is this what we want?

  2. Thomas Hynes says:

    For ten years I worked in a Package store, I remember when the law changed to allow opening to 9pm –The increase in 1 hour did NOT increase sales.

    The busiest time for any package store is the last 20min before store closing. — All the increased time did was to move that up from 7:40 to 8:40pm

    Opening on Sundays is Ridiculous, its NOT going to increase tax revenues for the state of CT and most likely will end up costing the small wine and package stores more money to operate.

    Now on the other hand I understand that a Grocery Store who has dedicated 16 feet or 20 feet of refridgerator space and or shelf space is LOOSING MONEY.. if an item takes up space, and you can not sell it then you are loosing money.

    Perhaps the law should be that Grocery stores may sell beer on weekends…

    To me the Vodka, the Gin, the Rum can all stay on the shelf…there should be at least one thing left sacred and thats Sundays….it was bad enough when the blue laws were lifted…now look at CT we are a 24/7/365 day a week retail operation….all for what so that the state can generate sales tax? Really”?

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