Malloy proposes liquor law changes
HARTFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has supported selling alcohol on Sundays, but in the upcoming legislative session he is planning to get his hands dirty.
The governor has scheduled a news conference for Saturday in Enfield to propose updates to what many complain are the state's archaic so-called Blue Laws.
Chief among his proposals, according to spokesman Andrew Doba, will be allowing the sale of beer, wine and liquor on Sundays and a "slight extension" of the hours alcohol can be sold, not only in package stores but in restaurants and bars.
"It's embarrassing Connecticut was only one of two states in the nation that has not allowed Sunday sales,'' he said, adding that it is a loss of revenue to liquor stores here.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based Distilled Spirits Council, Connecticut also loses $8 million annually in tax revenue due to the lack of Sunday alcohol sales.
The notion of expanding sales has also polled well with voters. Last March, Quinnipiac University found 66 percent of respondents said liquor stores should be allowed to sell alcohol on Sundays.
But Doba was quick to note the changes will not be a mandate.
"It's just giving them flexibility so, especially in border towns, they can compete," Doba said.
Malloy's support of Sunday sales is no surprise. In an interview just days after he was sworn in last January with Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, the governor said, "If the Legislature passes it, I'll sign it. It's just not an issue for me."
But no bills on the issue survived the 2011 session of the General Assembly.
Saturday's press event signals that Malloy has decided to be more aggressive on the issue when the Legislature convenes in February.
"He (Malloy) said they were going to look at everything, and everything was going to be on the table," Hughes said.
Hughes said his members -- smaller package stores who fear Sunday sales will make it even tougher to compete with large chains -- have been coming up with a list of Sundays they feel could be profitable.
"Sundays and holidays, based on time of year and season," Hughes said. "But if we're open 52 (Sundays each year), that's problematic."
Hughes hoped the administration will also propose some changes within the industry that could cut costs and be considered as a compromise among his members.
"I thought he was trying to look at the whole industry and decide what do you do to help others," Hughes said. "If I'm the victim here on the table, I have to rethink trying to be cooperative and open."
Doba said, "There's going to be other parts of the package. This isn't the only aspect. ... But the underlying themes are making sure businesses in Connecticut compete and giving consumers a little more bang for their buck."
Malloy's choice of Enfield is symbolic because the town's legislators for years have helped spearhead Sunday sales bills to help their local liquor store owners, who argue too many customers hop the border and stock up in Massachusetts.
"He's reacting to the will of the people," Sorkin said.
Sorkin said he expects the changes will also apply to his members being able to sell beer on Sundays.
The association has, in the past, endorsed the sale of wine in state grocery stores as well. Sorkin said that is still a goal, but will not be a deal-breaker if it is not part of Malloy's recommendations.
"They're two stand-alone issues," Sorkin said.