Capitol Connection: Liquor Laws Get Extra Attention this Fall

September 10, 2015

From the Office of State Senator Kevin Witkos

In preparation for the 2016 legislative session, the legislature’s General Law Committee created a new working group to take a closer look at state laws related to liquor and alcohol.

This past year, the General Assembly passed many changes to state liquor laws including allowing package stores to stay open an extra hour (until 6 p.m. on Sunday and 10 p.m. on any day other than Sunday), increasing the amount of package stores one permit holder can own, and allowing package stores to sell cigars – to name just a few of the 12 policy changes.

Some of these changes were applauded. Others were seen as new burdens on small family owned businesses. Either way you look at it, Connecticut has the opportunity to take steps next year to further adjust alcohol laws.

To get a better idea of what concerns are on people’s minds, the General Law Committee’s working group invited lobbyists and industry leaders to participate in small discussion groups where they will analyze specific topics and write reports on their findings to be presented to the entire group in December.

So far, some interesting ideas were floated around the group during the first meeting last month.

For example, some people would like to see legislation regarding what package stores can sell compared to others. Some want to allow package stores to fill growlers much like restaurants can under a new law passed this year. One person suggested either giving convenience stores the ability to sell beer or prohibiting package stores from selling items other than alcoholic beverages. Another person suggested looking at legislation to allow food stores to sell hard cider.

Others continue to raise concerns about pricing and taxes. Many questions surround minimum bottle pricing, price controls, and “channel pricing” – a situation where a state requires a product be sold to a restaurant at a certain price but then requires the same product be sold to a package store at a different price. Others expressed a desire to pursue reduced consumer level and state excise taxes.

Business hours related to liquor sales also came up. One person suggested making the hours of sale at wineries the same as the hours of sale at package stores. Another person said they would like to see CT allow restaurants to serve alcohol at the same time package stores are permitted to sell alcohol.

As the working group looks at these issues among others, we hope to answer the following questions:

  • Why is the topic being addressed good for the industry?
  • What is the opposing point of view?
  • How does any change effect you, the consumer?
  • Does the group’s conclusion/recommendation consider the opposing point of view?
  • What is the end goal and does the group’s conclusion/recommendation reach that goal?

What do you think about CT’s liquor laws? Please feel free to share your ideas with me or any other member of the General Law Committee. We’re talking, we’re questioning and we’re listening!