I had a nice chat this week with Jean Cronin, executive director of the Connecticut Package Store Association, which is bracing for a huge legislative battle this year over allowing wine sales in grocery stores.
“It will be quite a fight, and we are looking forward to it,” the pleasant Cronin told me, as she outlined some of the arguments she plans to deploy on behalf of the 1,200 package store owners in the state.
I have no doubt Cronin will muster a formidable lobbying effort to block efforts by the Connecticut Food Association to convince Connecticut lawmakers this year to allow wine sales in grocery stores.
I must say, though, that I find her arguments to protect the traditional fiefdoms of wine sellers, which in eastern Connecticut includes a single, enormous conglomerate, fall pretty flat.
After all, you can now legally buy marijuana in Connecticut, legalization that had strong but not overwhelming public support. The food sellers will tell you that, on the other hand, the public supports wine sales in grocery stores in huge numbers.
You can expect to see a lot of that polling soon, as the legislative battle unfolds in Hartford. There are already 42 states that allow grocery stores to sell wine.
The package stores suggest that they can better safeguard the public from inappropriate liquor sales, to minors for instance.
If I were a lawmaker, I would demand to see some statistics on that.
Grocery store clerks assiduously check my ID for beer sales, and I am obviously old and withered and have been buying liquor legally almost since Nixon was president. I would not be surprised if an analysis showed more beer sale violations by package stores than grocery stores.
Cronin told me lawmakers need to protect package store jobs.
Well, I think a lot of us grew to love grocery store employees who braved COVID-19 exposure and kept us fed during the pandemic. And I for one would certainly like to protect their jobs.
Cronin also said consumers will lose wine choices if the grocery stores are allowed into the business, because liquor stores, which may feature more specialty wine varietals, will have less revenue and be able to invest less money in inventory.
I’d say that if a consumer demand exists for those special varieties of wines, someone will stock and sell them in a robust free enterprise system.
And, really, that is what this fight will be about: economic protectionism for a particular class of business or free and open competition in the marketplace.
It’s hard to see how Connecticut lawmakers are going to be able to side with the protected, entrenched liquor store owners against the notion of free enterprise, especially when most state voters don’t understand why they can’t buy a bottle of Chardonnay from a grocery store that wants to sell it to them.
The last time liquor store owners went to major battle stations it was to protect the ban on Sunday liquor sales.
We all know how that one turned out. And I suspect and hope this one goes the same way.
Original article can be found at The Day.