Lawmakers debate proposed changes to liquor laws
HARTFORD — The Legislature’s Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee listened to testimony on Monday regarding Gov. Malloy’s proposal to boost revenue through liquor sales amid protests from package store owners.
Last month, Malloy announced changes that would extend the hours of operation for package stores from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays. The proposal would also lower liquor prices by allowing retailers to charge consumers as little as the whole sale price. It would also increase the cap of how many package stores a single person can own from a maximum of three to six.
“We believe they are modest, common sense changes to modernize liquor laws and, most importantly, to benefit consumers,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris told the committee.
Some lawmakers argued the plan could hurt small package stores which would compete with large retailers during longer hours. Harris countered that the extended hours are not mandatory.
Others were skeptical that the state would even receive the modest projected revenues from the plan, approximately $3.3 million a year, after inclusive data when the state started Sunday liquor sales in 2012.
“When we instituted Sunday sales for liquor, I think it was a 5 million dollar increase, incremental revenues to the State of Connecticut which as far as I can tell, didn’t materialize. The evidence is not there,” Republican Sen. Scott Frantz told Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes.
“The governor has proposed these changes because they are pro-consumer and they favor the residents of the state of Connecticut who purchase alcoholic beverages,” Barnes testified.