Lawmakers are once again debating a bill that would allow grocery stores and big-box retailers to sell wine in their stores.
The 1,200 package store owners in the state are not happy with the proposed legislation.
“We forecast that it would probably take about 20% of our business away, which all that being wine is significant,” Matthew Randazzo said.
Randazzo is the general manager of Putnam Plaza Super Liquors in East Hartford. The package store has been in the family since 1970.
“Wine is your most profitable product in the store. If we lost 20% of our business, it would be catastrophic to us,” Randazzo says.
Supporters of the bill wonder whether that would really happen.
“I think there’s a way here if we’re creative to allow the package stores to sell some items that they’re currently not selling and then allow grocery stores to sell wine,” Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association said.
Pesce said package stores should be able to sell things like chips and nuts and other things that go with alcoholic beverages.
But package store owners say that’s not a fair trade.
“In the meantime, you have thousands of items that are available in supermarkets now putting them at a distinct advantage in almost every way,” said James Pabich, owner of West Street Wines and Spirits in Simsbury.
“It’s really about opening up the market and creating competition and allowing them to do it as well,” Pesce said.
Package store owners say it’s not an even playing field.
“The problem is people have invested their entire lives into this and they’re trying to change the rules in the fourth quarter of the game,” Randazzo said. “It seems like the legislators are constantly picking on this industry."
Consumers seem divided on the issue.
“It would save you time, it would save you gas if wine is at the grocery store with other commodities,” said Dennis Julius ,of New Haven.
Dawn Foster of Berlin appreciates the package store.
“It's very nice to have somebody give you a hand, have a big selection, and support local business especially in this time,” Foster said. “I wouldn’t want to see the stores have to close because the grocery stores are taking on their role.”