Wine Sales in Grocery Stores Still Up for Debate

Some say it's more convenient for shoppers to buy wine where they buy their food while others say it could hurt independent package stores.

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When you're grocery shopping, you won't find wine on the shelves. 

That's because Connecticut is one of few states to prohibit the sale of wine in grocery stores. 

"We don't feel that it is necessary. We feel that there is a great deal of convenience already," said Jean Cronin, executive director of Connecticut Package Stores Association.

There are more than 1,250 package stores in the state and they are in almost every town. 

Supporters and critics of the bill spoke Thursday during a public hearing the General Law Committee held at the Legislative Office Building that went on for several hours.

Those against supermarket wine sales said if Connecticut's law changed, it would negatively harm package stores by taking away their most profitable item.

"Package stores are only allowed to sell certain items by law. If you look in the statute, basically it's three items. It's beer, it's spirits, it's wine. So, it will be a real hardship if people start purchasing the wine in a grocery store versus going to a package store," said Cronin.

There has been a decades-old debate about the sale of wine in Connecticut grocery stores and that debate continued Thursday in Hartford.

Dave Leon, who owns Bloomfield Discount Liquors and Shore Discount Liquors in Deep River, said the business is his livelihood. 

"My family is four generations. We've been in business close to 40 years, and this is pretty much all we know," said Leon.

But some feel strongly about selling wine at grocery stores, especially Molly Devanney, who oversees Highland Park Market. In Connecticut, there are three.

"I have to send someone like three miles down the road to the closest package store, and that's not always convenient for families," said Devanney.

Devanney said creating a convenient customer experience is her top priority.

A recent survey done at UConn shows overwhelming support - as much 84% of Connecticut residents approve of wine in grocery stores. 

After further analysis, one expert suggests changing the state law won't undermine package stores. It would also result in several economic benefits. 

"The bottom line was it looks OK. In fact, there's a slight benefit in terms of job creation. There's a benefit in terms of expanded state revenue in terms of taxation," said UConn professor Fred Carstensen.

Carstensen also found that supermarket wine sales could actually increase the number of package stores. It happened in Tennessee. The state went from less than 600 stores to 740 since the law changed.

The committee members will review testimony and decide if the bill will move out of committee.

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