Bill to allow Sunday liquor sales dies in committee

FAIRFIELD -- The work schedule hanging up at Harry's Wine & Liquor Market in Fairfield includes a column for Sunday. The managers added it to the chart when the Connecticut Legislature began discussing repealing the blue laws that prohibit liquor sales on Sundays.

The small change was meant to mentally prepare the employees for a change general manager Patrick Monteleone thought was inevitable.

"We didn't want it to happen, but you have to prepare," Monteleone said. "It's like when you know a hurricane is approaching the coastline. You hope it doesn't hit you, but you still have back up rations."

He and other liquor store owners in the area said they were relieved to hear the Legislature's General Law Committee killed the measure Tuesday, although some legislators have said they plan to resurrect it.

But not all customers were so enthused about the news.

"I think it's stupid they don't sell alcohol on Sunday," said Katie Morin, a Bridgeport resident who was shopping at Fairfield Wine & Spirits on Tuesday. "They do it everywhere else. And they serve it in my church."

Stan Sorkin, president of the Connecticut Food Association, said he was disappointed the committee did not listen to the voice of the Connecticut consumer.

The latest Quinnipiac poll revealed voters support 66 percent to 31 percent allowing liquor stores to open on Sunday.

Sorkin said he has hope the bill may pass later in the legislative session. "Especially in times of a budget crisis, you never know what could happen," Sorkin said.

The amendment, which failed in a voice vote in the committee Tuesday, is likely to emerge elsewhere, probably in the Finance Committee or the floor of the House.

Rep. Kathleen Tallarita, D-Enfield, and Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, vowed to continue pursuing the legislation before the June 8 adjournment of the General Assembly.

Kissel, a lawyer, said he believes that it's unconstitutional to ban Sunday retail sales of alcohol.

"We have small mom-and-pop hairstyling, barbers, every other kind of business, they don't have these kinds of protections that we have in statute," Kissel said, adding that stores in b.

Jay Hibbard, vice president for governmental relations for the Distilled Spirits Council, said every state that has adopted Sunday sales since 2002 has achieved increased tax revenue of between 3 and 7 percent, including the most recent participant, Colorado, which enacted the bill in 2008 and saw a 6 percent increase in tax revenue.

Carroll J. Hughes, the lobbyist for the Connecticut Package Store Association, called the vote a victory for small corner stores throughout the state he believes would have lost major Sunday sales to supermarkets, forcing hundreds out of work. Hughes said estimates that it would raise millions in additional tax revenue are overstated.

"It doesn't raise money and it certainly eliminates jobs," Hughes said of the proposal. "I'll lose 350 stores, probably 600 jobs in the wholesale-retail sector and we don't need that right now, just for an experiment that somebody's saying `let's open up and try it.'"

Most liquor stores are mom-and-pop operations, Monteleone said. They can't compete with larger grocery stores that are open on Sunday anyway.

Grocery stores only sell 10 percent of the beer in the state, Sorkin said, so he did not think they would put small liquor stores out of business.

Brian Donahue, who owns Fairfield Wine & Spirits, said he already manages his store 72 hours a week and can't afford to hire another manager.

The current store hours are ingrained in people's minds, Monteleone said, and they'll stay set in their ways. For example, liquor stores have been allowed to stay open until 9 p.m. since 2003, but most people hustle to get their shopping done before then, he said. Harry's doesn't stay open until 9 p.m. everyday because there's not enough business.