Skip to main content


Connect with the local beverage industry. Trade news, trends and insights.

CPSA News Update: Wine Sales in Grocery Stores

By February 23, 2023Connecticut, Top News, Association Talk

Sean Hughes, Account Director, Connecticut Package Stores Association.

By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association

On Feb. 2, the Legislature’s General Law Committee held a public hearing for House Bill 5918, which would allow the sale of wine in food stores. Committee members listened to arguments for and against the bill from the liquor industry, grocery stores, farm wineries and the public over the course of hearing.

The call to action from the liquor industry is not something new, as years of the minimum bottle battle and other liquor-related fights with former Gov. Dannel Malloy saw hundreds of industry members arrive in droves at the Capitol to voice their opposition. This was the first call to action that occurred on Capitol grounds since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2023 legislative session is the first “fully open” session that Connecticut has seen since the start of the pandemic back in March 2020. Many of the legislators—who have been elected since 2018, which is over half of them—had never seen the Legislative Office Building atrium lobby filled and had never seen firsthand the grassroots advocacy that the liquor industry is notorious for in the building.

Expectations were uncertain as to how many store owners, salespersons and others would show up to the Capitol to show their opposition. That concern had dissipated by 9:30 a.m. when there were close to 250 people already in the lobby, before the buses that had been arranged by different groups to shuttle people in had even arrived. By 10 a.m., when the public hearing started, there were close to 700 people in the atrium of the building. In conversations that CPSA has had with some of the doorway security and State Capitol Police Officers, the estimate is that there were just over 1,000 members from the industry that arrived to show their opposition.

This year’s General Law public hearing was done in a different manner than most public hearings have been conducted in the past. The chairman of the committee wanted to have an efficient hearing that would allow for each industry to explain their arguments with no time limit. Typically, a public hearing will only give one testifier three minutes to speak. Chairman Rep. Michael D’Agostino created panels of four people to come up to the table before the committee and explain their arguments for or against without a time limit.

The hearing began with a panel from the Connecticut Food Association (grocery stores) and the Connecticut Vineyard and Winery Association (farm wineries), who are in favor of wine being sold in grocery stores. The committee then heard from the Connecticut Package Store Association, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut, and the Indian American Package Store Association of Connecticut, as well as Fifth State Distillery, Hartford Flavor Company and Litchfield Distillery, all of whom are opposed to wine sales in grocery stores. After hearing arguments from both sides and at the end of panel sections, a debate between the liquor industry and the grocery stores was heard, with follow-up questions again from legislators.

As to the current state of House Bill 5918, the General Law Committee can either approve or vote down H.B. 5918 by March 21, when the committee hits their deadline to act on any legislation before them. Any bills neither approved by a majority vote nor taken up by the committee at all for a vote by this deadline will die.

The hope for H.B. 5918 is that either the committee will bring the bill up for a vote and vote it down or the committee will not even bring the bill to a vote, and the bill will have no further action on it this session, which will kill the bill.

CPSA and other members of the industry continue to lobby the members of the General Assembly and General Law Committee on the major concerns and consequences of allowing wine and cider to be sold in grocery stores. The advocates for H.B. 5918 continue to lobby for the passage of the bill.

Currently, a way that package stores can help to defeat the bill is to continue to email and call their State Representatives and Senators, as well as members of the General Law Committee, on the concerns that you have if H.B. 5918 were to pass. Members of the CPSA will continue to be alerted to the status of the bill and any updates leading up to March 21, when the Committee will have to close by 5 that evening.

To stay in the loop and support the efforts to protect the package store industry, join the CPSA today.


« | »