By Jean Cronin, Executive Director, Connecticut Package Stores Association
The time for Connecticut package store owners to make their voices heard at the Legislature has finally come. During February, the General Law Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly will hold a public hearing to assess the public’s words of support or opposition for the bills that have been proposed in the committee. Two of the proposals will include allowing wine to be sold in grocery stores and beer to be sold in large box stores.
Wine in grocery stores will be our biggest issue. There have been a number of stories reported on local news outlets, as well as several print articles on the topic. Many of them seem to slant in favor of the supermarket.
However, the second issue, beer in box stores, seems to have slipped under the radar despite the severe implications the proposal would raise. The large national box stores have tried several times to obtain the ability to sell beer in their stores by advocating to change the percentage needed to qualify for the grocery beer permit. The permit is currently granted if a store sells more than 50% of groceries as its overall product sales.
Groceries are defined as coffee grounds, meats, cheeses, etc. The large national box stores are seeking to reduce the percentage from 50% to 20%. This would allow these giant chains to sell beer, since only 20% to 30% of their overall product sales are groceries. The typical box store has an average of 80,000 different items, many of which do not fall under the grocery definition, such as lawn and garden items, electronics and many other items.
Not only would this proposal open sales to these box stores, it would also make thousands of other outlets that carry a small percentage of groceries eligible to sell beer. This includes convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies and many other outlets.
The large national box stores claim that this change is about “customer convenience” and the customer’s desire to have a “one stop shopping” experience. Currently, large national box stores are able to sell beer in 46 states across the nation.
This proposal is certainly concerning and is something that the Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA) has fought against in past sessions. This proposal would displace beer sales and customers out of package stores and instead place the sale of beer inside of these large box stores where customers will already be shopping for one of their 80,000 different products.
Connecticut package stores are legally allowed to sell three basic items: beer, wine and spirits. The passage of this bill would have a negative effect on the family-owned stores across the state and is something that the CPSA will once again oppose.
It is important that store owners come to voice their opposition to beer in box stores, wine in grocery stores and other proposals that will negatively impact the alcohol retail system. Legislators will be hearing about these proposals from the lobbyists for the large box stores and grocery stores. It is important that legislators hear from the small businesses in their districts—and from around the state—that will be hurt by the passage of these proposals. The hearing is set for Feb. 2.
The CPSA has been working with other industry members to inform the legislature of the devastating impact the approval of these proposals would have; however, legislators also want to hear from you, their constituents. If they do not hear your voices, they will think you are not concerned. When you reach out to your representatives, remember to be respectful and clear in your message and to let them know you live or work in their district.
We encourage members to reach out to the CPSA if they have any questions about how to approach their representatives in Hartford. This is an absolutely critical time to be vigilant and informed. To stay in the loop and support the efforts to protect the package store industry, join the CPSA today.
Jean Cronin is the President of Hughes & Cronin Public Affairs Strategies, where she is responsible for developing and implementing legislative initiatives for the firm’s clients, and directing a variety of trade and professional associations managed by the firm. Cronin joined the firm in 1986 after serving as a communications strategist for the Connecticut Senate Majority Office, where she became well-versed in the politics and insight of the State Capitol. She is the Executive Director of the Connecticut Package Stores Association, following the passing of longtime director, Carroll J. Hughes.