Pretty soon Connecticut residents will be able to buy liquor on Sundays without having to cross state lines into neighboring New York or Massachusetts to do so. The Connecticut State Senate approved a bill ending the state's ban on Sunday liquor sales Tuesday evening, according to the Connecticut Mirror; the Connecticut House of Representatives already approved the bill last week.
Shortly after the bill's approval by the state senate Tuesday evening, Gov. Malloy released a statement pledging to sign the bill shortly, but said he felt there was more the legislature could do to lower the state's liquor prices.
“Once I sign this bill, Indiana will be the only state in the nation to ban Sunday Sales. It’s a measure that’s long past due and a good first step to making our state’s package stores more consumer friendly," Malloy 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. "Like many other initiatives I’ve put forward since taking office, this bill has a simple focus: making Connecticut competitive once again. But as I said just a few days ago when the House passed this bill, I continue to believe there’s more we can do to lower the cost to consumers in our state. I look forward to the study proposed by the legislature. It’s a good first step and one that I hope lays the foundation for future action. This much is clear – the more we can lower prices for consumers, the more competitive our businesses will be."
According to the Connecticut Mirror, the bill allows liquor permittees to sell alcohol from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays, as well as on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, and on Mondays following a Christmas or New Year's Day holiday that falls on a Sunday.
Owners or managers three of the several liquor stores in town were asked for their views on the ability to open on Sunday and they were not afraid to share their displeasure with the new law.
"It will be devastating to a lot of liquor stores," said Frank Facciolo, co-owner of Berlin Spirits. "We're lucky that we have a partnership and we don't mind working a lot of hours but the stores that are owned by a husband and wife are really going to struggle. You can't do this job without a day off and I'm guessing a lot of stores won't open."
Facciolo said a report he saw estimates that of the 1,200 independently owned liquor stores in Connecticut, 300 will go out of business in the next five years. "That means 300 little guys will be gone," he said. "Look at what has happened to pharmacies, hardware stores, eyeglass shops. They have all gone away because of the big box stores. This bill was pushed ahead by the lobbyists of big supermarkets without any care for the smaller stores."
While stores can open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Facciolo and co-owner John Maher said they may open for a shorter time.
"We may go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or 10 a.m. to whatever," Maher said. "We have always taken care of the customer and we will continue to do that regardless of what we have to do."
Facciolo said Governor Malloy is way off in his estimates of how much money can be made.
"He thinks the state will make $565 million if stores open on Sunday," he said. "A decent store might make $1 million. So there are 500 stores that are going to make a $1 million if they stay open? That is crazy.
"The problem with people going to Massachusetts is not Sunday sales or store hours. It is that we have .635 percent sales tax and excise taxes that make our products more expensive."
Bill Perzan, Manager of C & C Wine & Spirits said he is taking a wait and see attitude about being open on Sunday but he is not happy about it.
"It was lobbied by the big box stores like Stop & Shop who don't have to change anything except lift the curtain on the beer," Perzan said. "It will have an adverse affect on us and our employees because it is time we won't have with our family. It is time we can't go to the beach or plan things.
"Then there are the labor practices and industry standards. We have some kids who work here who want time and a half or double time. They are not going to get it but they are asking. It's like when they said we could stay open until 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. They predicted a huge profit and it just didn't happen."
A customer who was in C & C said she doesn’t understand why stores have to be open on Sunday.
"I think it's stupid, said Diane. "You are open for six days a week and long hours. If you can't get what you need during that time then you really don't need it that badly. I think it stinks for these guys to have to be open another day."
The only days liquor stores would be closed would now be Christmas Day, New Year's Day and Easter. That leaves 362 days that the lights would be on and employees would be working.
Main Street Package Store owner Pat Memery said she hates the new law.
"We are not going to make any more money by opening on Sunday," she said. "It's one day off, a day to spend with your family but there is nothing you can do.
"My customers have told me that I don't have to worry about them leaving me for another store if I don't open on Sundays. We may lose a customer who makes a spontaneous purchase but I think my loyal customers will stay with me."
Memery also said she would be in favor of all the Berlin liquor store owners getting together to say they all would stay closed on Sunday.
Maher said the problem with that is that Stop & Shop will be open and Stew Leonard’s now has a full liquor store.