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Retailers Offer Mixed Response to Opening on New Year’s Day

By February 2, 2022Rhode Island, Top News

Island Wine & Spirits in Newport Manager Eric Derrico opened for the store’s first ever New Year’s Day. “It wasn’t crazy busy, but we had a steady flow,” he said.

State law now allows package stores to open on the holiday

By Sara Capozzi

An amendment to a law that was passed during Rhode Island’s Legislative Session in 2021 allowed the state’s package stores to open on New Year’s Day for the first time; but not all stores chose to do so.

House Bill (2021-H 5504), drafted by Representative William O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), amended Section 3-8-1 of the Rhode Island General Laws which requires retailers operating under a retail Class A license to remain closed on three holidays: Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. New Year’s Day 2022 marked its removal.

O’Brien said the goal of the amendment was to allow Rhode Island stores to remain competitive with neighboring states and give small business owners a chance to recoup a little of what they may lose due to factors related to the ongoing pandemic.

“It means that people can go out and replenish what they lost the night before,” O’Brien said on NBC 10 WJAR news on Dec. 24. “But also, a little more money in the pocket of small [businessmen], and a little more revenue for the state of Rhode Island instead of [shoppers] going to Massachusetts and Connecticut,” he said. Package stores in Massachusetts are allowed to be open on New Year’s Day. Connecticut state law requires package stores to close on New Year’s Day, along with the Thanksgiving and Christmas Day holidays.

Wines & More in Cranston opted to open on New Year’s Day, using its typical Sunday hours of 10 to 6 p.m. “It was good,” Bill Rizzini, Manager, Wines & More in Cranston, said of the day in terms of sales. “I would equate it to an average Sunday.”

Rizzini said he had no problem with the new amendment to the law. “I came from Massachusetts stores, so I was always open on New Year’s Day,” he said. “And I really didn’t have any issues staffing it; we had plenty of help. I know some stores may have been out there struggling to staff it, but we were fine.” The move allowed them to be competitive over other stores that decided to close for the day. “We’re a big player, and I know that one of the other big players in my neighborhood did not open, so we went ahead and did it,” Rizzini said.

Island Wine & Spirits in Newport also opened for the day using their Sunday hours of 10 to 6 p.m. “It wasn’t crazy busy, but we had a steady flow,” Manager Eric Derrico said of sales that day. “For January, we slow down anyway, so considering it was the first [New Year’s Day] open, it wasn’t too bad.” According to Derrico, the store enlisted a small number of staff who wanted to work and that was enough to cover business for the day.

The team from Grapes & Grains in Barrington decided not to open the extra day. “I feel what is being missed here is time off to recharge,” said Owner Matthew Amaral.

Many stores across the state chose not to open on the new, optional opportunity , favoring an added day of rest over potential sales, which some felt wouldn’t be high enough to justify opening on the holiday. Grapes & Grains in Barrington opted to remain closed for the day to give employees a “much-deserved break.”

Megan Freitas, Beer Buyer, Grapes & Grains, said that typically on holidays such as Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, sales typically start dropping off by the late afternoon, so that on New Year’s Day, “We just expected that we wouldn’t really see any traffic anyway … it seemed like the best thing to give everyone the day off,” she said. The store closes for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday.

“I understand the reasoning behind the bill to be business friendly and competitive with our neighboring state who can open on New Year’s Day,” said Matthew Amaral, Owner, Grapes & Grains. “From an operation standpoint, my team looks forward to a guaranteed four days off a calendar year, and now with the change in the law, we could have one less retail day off if we decide to open.”

“From an economic position, I believe the sales generated on New Year’s Day would not offset the cost of being open and paying time and a half. In my community, our customers plan ahead and have procured bottles for New Year’s Day, so the sales to be made will be for smaller purchases … I feel what is being missed here is time off to recharge versus profit. If Rhode Island liquor store owners want to uncork New Year sales which might generate New Year profit, if their location and community support being open on New Year’s Day, then the new law makes sense,” he said.


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