Update as of 11:55 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29:
Rep. Rosa Rebimbas, R-70, representing Naugatuck, is a ranking member on the General Law Committee and was present at the Tuesday, Feb. 28, hearing.
"As ranking member of the General Law Committee, I am pleased to see the high level of participation in today's public hearing on the Governor's "Sunday sales" bill," Rebimbas said in an e-mailed statement. "This bill is a comprehensive package of reforms that has far-reaching implications for many stakeholder groups, including consumers, small business owners and others. As I listen to testimony I maintain an open mind about each side of this important and nuanced issue. I continue to be mindful of the potential ramifications that this bill may have on public safety, job creation and small businesses throughout the state."
The spirited topic in liquor stores on Tuesday, Feb. 28, was the General Law Committee Public Hearing and testimony on Gov. Dannel Malloy's Liquor Law Reform Bill 5021.
At Middlebury Fine Wine & Spirits, proprietor Bob Heusted had a lot to say after attending a portion of the hearing that morning.
"The issue to sell this to the public is opening on Sundays, but what's under the covers?" he said.
At , employee Bill Blore's laptop was live-streaming the public hearing. Nutmeg Wine & Spirit Shoppe Proprietor Bob Gorbett also attended a portion of the hearing in Hartford.
Heusted said there are ways in which the bill, if passed, will make his job harder.
Blore and Heusted both said small stores cannot compete with the preferential pricing in the proposal.
"It's allowing, in essence, special or better pricing for larger stores," said Heusted. "I can't buy 20 cases of vodka and put them out in the store, but a higher volume store can."
Blore said the proposal is set up to reward those who can buy in bulk.
"We don't have a back room -- what you see out here is what we've got," he said, gesturing to the store. "It rewards the big stores and kills off the small."
According to WTNH's coverage of the bill, Malloy is proposing a strict limit of five discounted loss leaders per week, as a way to protect small stores. Loss leaders refers to featured merchandise sold at a loss as a way to draw customers.
Carroll Hughes of the Connecticut Package Store Association was quoted on WTNH as saying the portion about Sunday liquor sales was distracting people from the other issues.
Blore agreed with that statement.
"It's not just about Sunday sales," he said. "It's the deregulation of pricing structures."
Support for Bill 5021
There are business owners who are in favor of the bill. At the hearing, Kevin Curry of , said he supports the bill and called it pro-business and pro-consumer.
"It allows me to sell beer like other convenience stores do in other states," he said.
That component of the bill is troubling to Heusted.
"Is that really a good thing for the public interest?" he said, likening it to a customer taking a beer to-go from a bar. "I don't know why MADD [Mothers Against Drunk Driving] is silent on this."
Janice Heggie Margolis, a Connecticut MADD executive director, was quoted in a January 22 article from the Connecticut Post as saying Malloy's proposal does not relate to MADD's issues but the organization does support parts of the proposal, most notably a uniform closing time for bars.
Bill 5021, if passed, would result in the creation of a medallion system, allowing stores to sell the rights to their permits.
Heusted explained that he has a license to operate a liquor store in Middlebury.
"If someone wants to buy the license, they can buy the license but then they can operate a liquor store in Middlebury alone," he said. "A medallion is good anywhere in the state."
His concern is that a bigger store, such as a grocery store, could buy medallions from small businesses.
"Once smaller businesses start selling their medallions, they're not going to be very valuable," said Heusted. "There's no golden parachute associated with this."
His concern is about the future of mom-and-pop-stores.
"The little guy will hang on for a while," said Heusted. "But then they'll most likely go the way of hardware stores when Home Depot came in. If you make it so easy for big money to take over the industry, they're going to take over."
Matt Morris stopped by Middlebury Fine Wine & Spirits and said he does not support Bill 5021.
"I don't like the fact that they're just pushing what the public wants to hear -- longer hours and being open on Sundays," he said. "Being a business owner myself, no one wants to work seven days a week."
The Trickle Down Effect
Morris owns Bicycle Works, located in the same plaza as Heusted's store. He said shopping locally has a trickle down effect.
"There was a study done that found that when money is spent at small businesses, more of it stays local," he said.
"The Economic Impact of Locally Owned Businesses vs. Chains: A Case Study in Midcoast Maine" did reflect Morris' statement.
The case study [attached to this article as a PDF] noted the following results:
- The eight businesses who revealed expenditure and revenue information for the study spent 44.6 percent of their revenue within the surrounding two counties and another 8.7 percent of their revenue spent elsewhere in Maine.
- A typical big box store, according to the case study, spent 14.1 percent of revenue within the local and state's economy. The rest left the state, according to the study.
What Happens Next
If the bill passes, Malloy's proposed changes could be implemented by Memorial Day weekend, WTNH reported.