Industry

Connecticut: Conn. Expands Alcohol Sales

By Joseph De Avila and Ted Mann May 1, 2012
WSJ
There may be a lot fewer out-of-state trips on Sundays for many Connecticut residents.

The state Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill that makes Connecticut one of the last states to end a ban on Sunday and holiday alcohol sales in liquor stores and supermarkets. It previously passed the state House of Representatives in April.

Gov. Dannel Malloy, who had proposed repealing the ban, said Tuesday he would sign the bill. That would leave Minnesota and Indiana as the only remaining U.S. states with Sunday bans.

For decades, Connecticut residents crossed the borders of New York and Massachusetts to restock on beer, wine and liquor on Sundays. Connecticut is poised to gain more than $5 million a year in new tax revenue from Sunday liquor sales, according to state estimates.

Many lawmakers said they didn't think alcohol would ever be sold on Sunday in Connecticut, with the liquor-store lobby long opposed to the change.

"It's a measure that's long past due and a good first step to making our state's package stores more consumer friendly," Mr. Malloy, a Democrat, said in a statement. "Our current laws have cost Connecticut businesses millions of dollars as consumers have flocked over our borders in search of more convenient hours and lower prices."

Under the law, Connecticut vendors will be allowed to sell alcohol between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays. They will also have the option of selling liquor on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day. Booze sales will still be banned on Christmas and New Year's Day.

Mr. Malloy originally called for a more comprehensive bill that would have overhauled the state's alcohol industry. Allowing bars to remain open until 2 a.m. on all nights of the week and legalizing the sale of beer at gas stations were among the provisions that lawmakers eliminated.

The change may be convenient for liquor consumers. But some owners of small shops say the development will hurt their business. Elsa Abarca, who owns the Wine Merchant, a small package store in New London, said opening an extra day on Sunday would be bad for business. The cost of operating the store an additional day would eat up any new profits from sales on Sunday, she said.

"I'm not in favor of it at all," Ms. Abarca said. "I'm the only person running this business here, and I do have a family. It's not all about work or the money."

Ms. Abarca said she would remain closed on Sundays.

The vote wasn't a surprise, however, Ms. Abarca said. She and other store owners have heard the drumbeat of support for eliminating the Sunday ban for several years.

Other sole proprietors are likely to follow her lead and remain closed on Sundays, while larger retail outlets would probably have sufficient staff to open on Sundays, Ms. Abarca said.

The changes were inevitable, said Ed Cramer, owner of Gordon's Yellow Front in New London.

"You knew it was coming. It was just a matter of when," Mr. Cramer said. "That doesn't mean I like it." Mr. Cramer said the state estimates of increased revenue from Sunday sales were misguided. "The pie is not going to expand tremendously because you've made the product more available," he said.