By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association
Sometimes it is helpful to be reminded of a current state one finds themselves in and appreciate where they are. Recently, the Connecticut Package Store Association held its annual golf outing at Whitney Farms Golf Club in Monroe. The event is well attended every year by the wholesalers who service package stores from all corners of the state, as well as by the package store owners and workers themselves. What is more important, though, is the show of unity among the different tiers in Connecticut.
Every year, when new laws are proposed that would drastically change the liquor industry in Connecticut, there is a united front of the three-tier liquor system against those changes. This united front has shown the General Assembly that no portion of the industry is in favor of these proposed changes. This type of partnership is not something that happens in other states.
There is a reason Connecticut continues to hold the line and keep the laws in statute that have allowed this state to be the model for the nation. Whether the issue was a former governor who persisted every year to remove minimum bottle pricing from statute, to the most recent battle with a bill that would have allowed wine in food stores and beer in big-box stores, the wholesalers and three tier system have stood united against these proposed changes.
In addition to those proposed bills, the expansion of the bottle bill to include wine and liquor bottles was a proposal that the three tiers advocated against. The inclusion of the wine and liquor bottles would have meant that package stores would have been mandated to accept returns of nearly every product that that currently sell. The result would have been catastrophic and resulted in major changes inside stores that would have impacted sales and retail space. Thankfully, this bill was defeated during the last legislative session.
Also, that same proposed bill would have required a complete revamping of the liquor wholesale delivery system to take back returnable bottles, something which is extremely difficult. There was also a section that would have placed a redemption value on small miniature liquor bottles (nips) and place that redemption value at 25 cents. There is currently only one state in the nation that has a redemption value on nips, which is Maine. They also only have one wine and spirits wholesaler for the entire state. For the nips redemption issue, the entire industry advocated against the proposal and was able to defeat it.
When the legislators claimed that they would attempt to ban nips sales in the state, the industry came together to brainstorm a solution to the litter problem of nips. The end result was a .05 cent fee at the point of sale on each nip that would go to the municipalities to help with the litter. The fee is collected by the wholesalers from the retailer on their liquor invoices. The retailer then collects the fee from the customer. The wholesalers remit the revenue to the respective towns twice a year. After all, the municipalities were one of the main advocates for a redemption fee or ban on nips due to the amount of litter that was amassing on their roadways. The municipalities recently received their first payment back in April and seem to be pleased with the amount of money helping them toward the cleanup on the roadways.
While there will always be legislation that targets the liquor industry in one way or another, it is helpful to have a united three tier system. It can feel like a daunting task when the groups that want to sell wine in their store have large amounts of money to wage a public campaign to sway the public and legislators to approve legislation granting them what they want.
Thankfully, it has been the grassroots and advocacy of the three tier system that has defeated the issue year after year. This level of partnership between the tiers is unique to Connecticut and is one that should never be underestimated. You get by with a little help from your friends.
CPSA is always monitoring for developments affecting the industry within and outside of the legislative session. Our association in Connecticut is fighting every day for the rights of locally owned package stores across Connecticut. Support these efforts by joining CPSA today at CTPSA.com/join-cpsa/.