By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association
Over the past few months, legislators have reviewed and debated thousands of bills. The Capitol and Legislative Office buildings have been closed to the public since March 2020 and most of the committee meetings took place virtually. On June 9, the General Assembly concluded its business. As usual, there were quite a few bills that were introduced that would have drastically changed the liquor industry in the state for the worse.
Thankfully, proposals such as the sale of wine in food stores, beer sales in big-box stores and wine/liquor/nip bottles being included in the bottle bill were all defeated after extensive advocacy. While hundreds of bills died during the legislative session, there were quite a few that passed that make changes to the liquor industry.
One of the first changes was an increase in the amount of package store permits a store owner can hold. The existing limit is five stores per owner. The new law adopted by the General Assembly will increase the limit to six permits for one individual.
Another change coming for package stores includes allowing stores to sell devices and related accessories designed primarily for accessing and extracting a beverage containing alcohol from prepackaged containers, including pods, pouches or similar containers. The intent behind this change was to ensure that stores would be able to legally carry new products set to be released by various manufacturers.
The legislature also addressed the issue of labeling wine as from Connecticut. Starting this year on July 1, no out-of-state manufacturer may label a wine a “Connecticut” wine if it does not meet the required amount of using grapes grown in state.
Now, for the bottle bill. Starting on Oct. 1, 2021, there will be an increase in the handling fee for beer, hard ciders and hard seltzers from 1.5 cents to the new rate of 2.5 cents per container. The new rate for soda, mineral water and juices will be increased from 2 cents to the new rate of 3.5 cents. Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, all new and existing items included in the bottle bill will have a redemption rate of 10 cents. Some of the new items that have been added to the bottle bill include hard seltzers (malt-based) and hard ciders.
The Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA) worked with the wine and spirits wholesalers, as well as the manufacturers of nips, to craft a solution to the nip litter issue, which avoided adding them to the bottle bill for redemption. The solution that the coalition came up with was received in a very positive manner and placed into the bill, replacing the original language that would have included nips in the bottle bill.
The compromise to the nips issue will begin on Oct. 1, 2021. Starting on that date, a 5-cent surcharge will be placed on each nip that is sold. The 5 cents will then be collected from the retailer by the wholesaler. The wholesaler will then be responsible for giving that 5-cent surcharge on nips to the municipality where the nip was sold. The municipality can then spend that money on recycling programs or other related environmental cleanup programs that they see fit. The nip bottles are not to be redeemed back to any retailer. The 5-cent charge is not to be included when calculating the sales tax on the nip. The 5 cents will be issued at the wholesale level and will be paid back to them after purchase by the customer.
CPSA members have been sent the complete legislative summary detailing all of the bills from this past session and are welcome to call the office at (860) 346-7978 for any questions from this past session.