Mass. liquor stores want to sell booze earlier on Sundays

bottles-of-liquor-on-shelf
Bottles of liquor. Credit: Getty Images

Rise and shine, Bloody Mary-loving Bay Staters, because the early bird gets the booze.

Lawmakers are considering a push to let liquor stores to open earlier on Sunday mornings rather than waiting until noon.

The State House News reported that liquor store owners are worried they will lose sales to Connecticut and Rhode Island, two states that recently moved toward earlier sales, unless they start selling the sweet nectar earlier in the day. Connecticut liquor stores can now open at 10 a.m. on Sundays, and Rhode Island is on the verge of passing legislation to allow morning sales.

On Tuesday, Jay Hibbard, vice president of government relations at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, told lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure that store owners should be allowed to decide their own hours of operation.

Myles Tandy tends shop at Charles Street Liquors on Beacon Hill, and as far as he’s concerned, the expanded hours would not make much of a difference in sales.

“If anything, we might lose business. We don’t get a lot of customers on Sundays,” said Tandy. “Mostly it’s people getting nips or handful of beers. Sometimes we do decently with some of the sparklers; a lot of picnic stuff.”

Rep. Thomas Kennedy, co-chair of the committee, said some in the industry would want liquor stores to be open 24 hours a day if they could get it passed.

Hibbard replied, “I don’t think so,” and added that Sunday has become the second largest shopping day of the week.

Having worked in three different liquor stores in the past five years, Tandy weighed in on how Boston would cope with that availability.

“It’s just based on neighborhood. We wouldn’t do that, but there are definitely some areas of the city where that would go over well,” he said.

The committee heard testimony on bills sponsored by Rep. Steven Howitt that would allow stores to open at 10 a.m. and sponsored by Rep. Sean Garballey that would allow liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays the same hours as weekly business hours.

Stores in states that allow longer Sunday alcohol sales have seen increases in revenue, which in turn drive up state revenues, Hibbard said.

Frank Anzalotti, president of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, said the association was taking a “neutral stance” on lengthening Sunday hours. He added that if stores opened longer on Sundays, the Package Store Association would have concerns about time-and-half pay requirements.

“Without the time-and-a-half removal we would be concerned,” he said.

Rep. John Scibak, co-chair of the committee, asked Anzalotti if sales would increase or be spread out with more hours.

“There is a spreading out. What we have seen is a shift of convenience more than a shift in spending. Each sale per hour is going to be trimmed,” Anzalotti said.

Rep. Joshua Cutler said he worries small business owners will feel forced to open earlier on Sundays, and on some holidays, to keep up with their bigger competitors.

Chris Gasbarro, who owns a liquor store in Seekonk, said he felt the same way when Sunday sales became legal in Massachusetts. He was against it because he thought he would lose time with his family, he told lawmakers. Because employees earn time-and-a-half pay on Sunday, he has volunteers lined up to work, and no one who doesn’t want to work is forced to do so, he said.

Gasbarro is one of the liquor store owners pushing for more hours.

With liquor stores in Connecticut and Rhode Island opening earlier, “it is pushing the tail backwards,” into Massachusetts, Gasbarro said. Often on Sundays, Gasbarro said, he will have between 20 to 30 customers lined up at his store by noon. Customers tell him they want to shop early on Sunday, especially during the summer, and then head home, to the beach or their boats, he said.

Lawmakers also heard from supporters of a bill that would allow distilled spirits to be sold at auctions. The market for collectible cognacs and other high-end spirits has grown “robust” in recent years, but auction houses in Massachusetts are not enjoying the boom, according to Hibbard from the Distilled Spirits Council. The legislation would also allow auction of spirits for charity events.

Follow Morgan Rousseau on Twitter: @MetroMorgan
Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBOS



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.