By Sean Hughes, Connecticut Package Stores Association
The legislative session of 2022 was relatively calm. There was no major liquor bill that required the ‘three tier’ system to come out in force to the Legislative Office Building. The only concern from the 2022 session was from a provision in a bill that would have allowed charities to buy alcohol products directly from the manufacturer and bypass the wholesaler and package store tiers. Connecticut Package Stores Association (CPSA) was successful in removing that language from the bill after working with the chairman of the committee. By comparison, the 2023 session is looking anything but quiet.
CPSA is expecting one of the most active legislative sessions since the years when former two-term Governor Dannel Malloy sought to eliminate minimum bottle pricing from the state statute. The issue of wine in grocery stores will return, being strongly pushed by the Connecticut food stores and wineries, as will the effort to allow beer to be sold in large national box store chains. These will be two of the major issues facing the package store industry when the session starts on Jan. 4, 2023.
We are also anticipating numerous other issues to be introduced that may impact liquor pricing as well as liquor permits. In addition, there will also be at least 29 new legislators in the General Assembly in 2023 who will take the place of incumbents who opted not to run for re-election. This does not account for the surprise losses of some incumbents that will invariably occur on election night, which will further increase the number of new legislators.
There will be at least a 16% turnover in the total number of 187 legislators. Each of these new legislators will bring their viewpoints and suggestions to the legislative process, and they will be unfamiliar with the liquor statutes and the past battles to change them. They will need to be educated on the three-tier liquor system in Connecticut and how it provides for the best variety and selection of products for consumers.
CPSA is hosting a series of meetings across the state this fall for package store owners to inform our members about what to expect in the upcoming legislative session. The purpose is twofold: to engage and inform store owners about the major issues that will be happening at the Capitol in 2023 that will have an impact on their businesses, and to ask questions or express comments about the industry with the CPSA directors and staff.
The first of these meetings was held on a rainy September afternoon in Newington, which gathered quite a crowd of store owners from the central Connecticut area. At that meeting, CPSA leadership informed the group of the anticipated issues for the 2023 legislative session, as well as the names of the local candidates who are running for state House and Senate seats. There was a robust discussion of ideas. It is an exciting time as we enter the last month before the elections occur on Nov. 8.
One of the many added benefits of these meetings is the ability to see the familiar faces, as well as meet new store owners who have recently entered the industry. In Newington, we had fourth-generation package store owners attend and share their wisdom and knowledge of the industry, as well as new owners who have recently purchased stores and are learning the nuances of the liquor world. One thing unites everyone, and that is the continued advocation for what makes the alcohol beverage industry so unique to Connecticut.
Our first regional package store meeting was a success; we will have many more to come! We will be traveling throughout the state to bring the message of advocacy and interaction to our members. This level of engagement is something that is very exciting for CPSA and its members. It is not very often that members of the retail tier gather, and it has proven to be a rewarding experience for those who have attended.
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/.