By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association
We are now headed into the fifth month of the Connecticut General Assembly’s legislative session, with a little more than 30 days until it closes. At the beginning of this session, the general outlook was that it would be a quiet year since the legislature would be meeting virtually and the Capitol Building would be closed. While for some industries it has indeed been a quiet year, Connecticut’s package stores have had one of their busiest years since the war on minimum bottle pricing under the Malloy administration.
This year, there have been proposals to allow for the sale of wine and beer at grocery stores, for beer to be sold in big-box stores and for the inclusion of wine and liquor bottles in the state’s “bottle bill.” The Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA) was successful in killing or favorably amending every single bill that would have negatively impacted the liquor industry in Connecticut.
The proposals to allow wine to be sold in grocery stores and beer to be sold in box stores were both included in one bill: House Bill 6101, “AN ACT CONCERNING VARIOUS ISSUES RELATED TO THE LIQUOR CONTROL ACT.” CPSA and its members worked tirelessly to lobby members of the General Law Committee on the devastating impacts that those two included proposals would have on the three-tier system.
Hundreds of store owners, managers, employees and customers called their legislators, submitted written testimony and testified at the public hearing in opposition to both measures. All explained from personal experience how these measures would hurt their businesses, or even force them to close their doors for good.
On the other side of these issues stood larger national box stores, chains and grocery stores, who were very much in favor of H.B. 6101. They both launched massive “grassroots” campaigns in an attempt to gain the public’s support for wine in food stores and beer in box stores. A huge amount of money was spent by a coalition of national chains, which sought to change Connecticut liquor law in their favor through the house bill.
In the end, the strong advocacy by CPSA staff and its members and supporters was enough to kill the bill in the General Law Committee. The bill was never brought to a vote because there was not enough support in the committee to get the bill approved. Although H.B. 6101 is dead for the 2021 Legislative Session, the issue is certain to return year after year. Defeating the proposal will require the same level of support and energy that was shown this year – and every year these issues are again introduced.
The third issue that CPSA and its members were successful in stopping was the addition of wine and liquor bottles to Connecticut’s “bottle bill.” Senate Bill 1037, “AN ACT CONCERNING SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT,” was originally proposed in the Environment Committee and contained language that would have expanded the bottle bill to include wine and liquor bottles for redemption.
The bill would have placed a 10-cent deposit on each bottle and would have required consumers to bring them back to the package store. Under this proposal, package store owners would be forced to take back the empty containers of 100% of the products that they sell. This would force owners to give up valuable retail space to accommodate all of the empty bottles that would be brought back for the deposit. CPSA was successful in lobbying to remove wine and liquor bottles from being included in the bottle bill. The association and other parties in the industry are going to be involved in discussions with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection regarding ways to recycle more glass in the waste stream.
While this has been an extremely busy session with new and unique hurdles for the liquor industry in Connecticut, CPSA has been very successful in adapting to the virtual world of advocacy to defeat significant and dangerous proposals. Maintaining the unique and impressive liquor market in Connecticut will require support and advocacy from every single store and employee.
CPSA will continue to fight on behalf of package stores against these proposals every single year. We thank all stores for their support, especially our membership, which continues to grow. If you are not a member, please consider joining CPSA today.