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Package Store Association President Speaks Against Malloy's Proposal

Alan Wilensky Says If Approved, Most Local Stores Will Close Within Three Years

This legislative session, Gov. Dannel Malloy is proposing an overhaul of the way

And while one aspect of his plan has drawn the most attention, , it is a variety of other changes that will have a huge effect on the package store industry, Connecticut Package Store Association President Alan Wilensky said Tuesday.

“Our numbers show that if this is passed, we will see a wave of closures in the first year,” said Wilensky, who also serves on the . “And within three years, the locally owned package store will be mostly gone.”

The Changes

Under the current laws, alcohol is sold to all licensed buyers in the state at the same price. So if, for example, a keg of Budweiser is being sold for $50 (not the real price), all licensed buyers in the state can buy that keg for $50, regardless of how many they buy.

Malloy is proposing to eliminate that regulation. That would allow bigger companies that buy more alcohol to get a discount for buying in bulk, thereby allowing them to sell the same product for less.

“They are going to jack up the prices against me if I’m just buying five or 10 cases of beer,” said Wilensky, who owns Max’s Package Store in East Lyme. “Whereas will be able to work out a deal because they are buying 1,000 cases of beer.”

This will also limit the variety in stores. If buying in bulk saves money, owners will buy more of one product rather than a variety of products, Wilensky said.

“Right now, I sell 70 different vodkas,” he said. “If this is passed, I’ll sell three.”

Currently, people are allowed to own two package stores. Malloy is proposing to allow people to own up to six package stores. Also, he is proposing to eliminate the law that says stores cannot sell alcohol products for less than what they bought them for, as a way to entice customers.

Wilensky is opposed to all of this, along with several other aspects of the proposal that he says favors big businesses over small ones. The larger point is that Malloy is trying to get this through in two months, when an overhaul this dramatic should take at least two years, Wilensky said.

“He is trying to fix something that really isn’t broken,” Wilensky said. “Because there is a perception by the governor that there is a problem. And there really isn’t.”

Good For The Consumer?

Many of the regulations that exist in the package store industry are unique to the package store industry, such as limiting the number of package stores a person can own to mandating all manufacturers selling at products at the same price, regardless of the size of the order. That is the way it should be, because alcohol is a “special product,” Wilensky said.

“It is not like milk or Pepsi, it is a regulated substance,” he said. “We limit who can buy it, and we limit who can sell it.”

By removing many of these regulations, it could push down the cost of alcohol to consumers, at least for a period, Wilensky said. But it also will put hundreds of store owners out of work and greatly limit the variety of alcohol products being sold, he said.

“The vast number of local, independent stores will cease to exist,” he said. “At that point, what you get is limited selection and the control of the pricing of the market.”

Water Ford March 07, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Alcohol is not a community nor is it a necessary part of our diet. The open market should prevail. Let stores be open when it’s profitable and let them negotiate the best deals possible. Government shouldn’t be able to tell a business owner how much they should pay, when they will open and when they will close…is this industry run by children? This is an example of when government needs to step aside. If the politicians want to do something meaningful they should look at the commodity market, health care or “entitlement” programs.
Ann Italiano March 07, 2012 at 12:42 PM
This will eliminate the smaller stores ability to compete, so it is a terrible idea. I like Silva's Package Store, where the owners are there to give advice and sell at a fair price. We've already lost enough of our small town atmosphere since being over run with big businesses.
clark creswell March 07, 2012 at 12:43 PM
I suggest we "can" Malloy's Proposal....consider what the impact is on the local economies...instead of "Big Money Interests"! C. Creswell, Wtfd.
Harold Hansen March 07, 2012 at 01:19 PM
The package store is one of the last vestiges of truly small retail businesses left in Connecticut. The reason for all the price controls was that no small store can compete directly with a big box store. So I guess that we all can go to the mall for our alcohol purchases. We should be able to get all our beverages from the internet because it will be cheaper still. I can remember small retail establishments owned by local people who employed local people who knew all about what they were selling. Ever try to get help at a big box store today? Is the most important thing to get things cheaper and cheaper? I won't even start on the economic effect.
Brendan Boyle March 07, 2012 at 02:09 PM
The economic effect will be more money in my pocket. Why does an industry have to use the rule of law to make a profit? The idea that all of the package stores will close is a farce, the only ones that will close are the ones that take advantage of their customers for profit. If anything we should be talking about OCCUPYING these small town package stores with their obscene profit margins and government lobbyist.
Kevin Marcks March 07, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Brenden, I couldn't disagree more. The way it is set up now is fair to all. The local liquor store must provide excellent service as well as variety of products because there is no price advantage. By creating this law it gives the unfair advantage to big business. The real question is why? The state will not make more money on this because people will still consume the same amount. There are some things in life that we can legislate away. We erode the local economy one business at a time. As for your disbelief that this will close businesses, then open your eyes and look for the 400 locally owned food stores, they are gone because of competition laws like this. Pick almost any local industry and you'll see it - from car dealerships to automechanics. Politicians tell us what they want us to hear but it is rarely the truth.
Tom March 08, 2012 at 12:19 PM
What would be a more interesting poll would be where people stand on this in regards to what political party they affiliate with. What we have here is a Democratic governor proposing to deregulate an industry, a contrast to the perceived party line.
Brendan Boyle March 08, 2012 at 06:49 PM
So I should have to pay more for my 12 pack so that a local package store can sell one bottle of premium/obscure vodka? And who does this protect? As far as 400 local food stores what is your definition of local and how far back are you going because I don't think 400 food stores could survive in New London county even if you took away all of the box stores. Assuming 22 towns (i think) in the county that would be 18 stores per town. How are car dealerships a local industry they are all franchises just like a Mcdonalds which is exactly what you don't want according to your argument. And auto mechanics are shutting themselves out of their own industry by not keeping up with the new technology (ever heard a mechanic sigh and say they don't make them like they used to anymore)
Paul March 11, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Tom, you are exactly right. It amazes me how politics have become. R's and D's really do not practice what they preach. Here we have a republican (package store president) actually advocating for regulation instead of a free market. I believe there are bigger things to worry about than whether or not liquor stores stay open on a Sunday!

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