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Proposed Law To Allow Supermarkets To Sell Bottled Wine Rankles Package Store Owners

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Package stores in Connecticut say they could be in danger of going out of business if the state Legislature allows supermarket chains to sell bottled wine.

Package store owners submitted 11-hours of testimony before the state’s General Law Committee on how the proposed bill threatens over 1,250 liquor stores and 15,000 workers in the state.

Jim Pavalock is the owner of West Street Wines and Spirits in Simsbury. He said the bill will hurt an already unstable industry.

“The expansion of wine and beer sales will have a destructive effect on an industry still struggling to maintain a healthy workforce during a pandemic,” Pavalock said.

Maureen Abrahamson is the owner of Mo’s Wine and Spirits in Fairfield.

“I believe that most of our citizens in our state of Connecticut do not want to be anything like Florida or Delaware, where big-box retailers take over, put the little stores out of business, decimate our quintessential New England streetscapes and downtowns, and create concrete wastelands,” Abrahamson said.

She said liquor stores kept downtowns profitable and employed during the pandemic. There are more than 1,250 package stores and over 15,000 workers in the state.

Store owners said most of their profits came from wine sales last year. The new legislation would also allow big-box stores like Costco to sell beer if locations already have a license to sell alcohol.

Similar legislation failed in 2019 after opposition from package store owners.

"With these particular proposals, it is my focus to make sure we are protecting consumers and the consumer's choice," said Democratic State Senator James Maroney of Milford, who chairs the committee. "I have seen throughout the coronavirus pandemic, consumers have enjoyed the ability to have breweries deliver as well as be able to purchase alcoholic beverages when placing an order at a restaurant to go. I would like to see what has been working out for consumers and what has been proved to be popular amongst several orders to continue."

The legislation would also extend an executive order that allows Connecticut restaurants to deliver alcohol in sealed containers.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.