Total Wine & More agrees to pay fine, stop selling alcohol below state minimum

wine bottles

HARTFORD — Just a week after Total Wine & More filed a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut, the retailer has agreed to stop selling alcohol below  the state minimum.

The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) completed its investigation into Total Wine & More’s advertising and sales of alcoholic liquor below the minimum price rules set out in the Liquor Control Act, DCP announced Thursday. Total Wine & More has agreed to immediately stop all below-minimum sales at its four Connecticut stores.

Total Wine & More also has to pay a fine of $37,500.

“Today’s agreement does not affect a lawsuit brought earlier this month by Total Wine & More challenging Connecticut’s liquor pricing laws,” DCP said. “Importantly, however, until those laws are amended by the legislature or declared unlawful through the judicial process, they remain in effect and DCP will continue to vigorously enforce them.”

Tuesday, State Republican leaders called for a crack down on liquor stores selling below state minimum. Both Total Wine & More and BevMax have filed federal lawsuits against the state disputing their pricing laws.

“Immediately upon learning that Total Wine & More was advertising and selling products below what is permitted by the State’s minimum price rules, DCP’s Liquor Control Division opened an investigation,” explained Commissioner Jonathan Harris.  “I am pleased that, through the hard work of many people at DCP, we were able to resolve this issue swiftly, and I appreciate that Total Wine worked with us to come to an agreement.”

The Statewide Association of Package Stores represents independent liquor stores and disagrees with the lawsuits. They released a statement Thursday applauding the crackdown of Total Wine & More.

“We certainly are pleased that the Department of Consumer Protection acted so decisively, however we have uncovered several new issues dealing with Total Wine that we will be exploring in the future,” said Carroll Hughes, President of the Statewide Association of Package Stores, which supports minimum-bottle pricing.

Governor Malloy is against the minimum pricing laws. He released the following statement:

“At the same time, my position on these laws has not changed. Connecticut’s minimum bottle pricing law is backwards and illogical. It penalizes our residents by artificially charging them substantially more for a product than what they would pay in surrounding states. No other industry has a protection like this. More competition would allow for lower prices – it’s as simple as that.

“While I continue to stand with consumers, I appreciate the Department’s work on this matter. The courts will now have to make a decision.”