For the first time in Connecticut since at least 1934, people will be able to buy alcohol this Sunday, and every Sunday thereafter.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a bill amending Connecticut’s Blue Laws, giving permittees the option of selling liquor and beer from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Malloy said the bill moves “in the direction of making Connecticut competitive for this industry.”
“I'm sure what will be said is that this is about Sundays, but it's more than that," Malloy said. "It is literally about our ability to compete with states that have been taking money away from us on an ongoing basis. When the product is less expensive and more convenient to purchase in surrounding states, you lose $570 million worth of sales.”
Malloy said he wants to capitalize on weekend business that is lost to stores located across the borders where alcohol sales are permitted on Sundays and other holidays.
But, will the new law really affect liquor sales in the towns such as Portland and East Hampton that are not “border towns?”
Ryan Milardo, the manager of Brownstone Bottleshop in Portland, put a positive spin on the new law.
"Pretty much everyone in Connecticut knew the Sunday thing was probably going to be coming into effect," he said. "The way it has gone through is the best it could be is our outlook on it, so accept it and make it fun."
Still, Milardo was uncertain of the impact.
"Not quite sure yet. It's a new game," he said. "It could be really good or it could be really bad. We're not one of those border towns so we're not going to see that difference. It's all new ground."
Milardo said his plan is to try to "gear up" Sundays with tastings and other promotions to increase business, especially during the winter months.
Brownstone Bottleshop and other liquor stores in Portland won't be able to sell alcohol until noon, however, because of a town ordinance. That ordinance was repealed on Wednesday night by the board of selectmen but will take a few weeks to go into effect.
Grocery stores such as Stop & Shop in East Hampton also will be selling alcohol but some package store owners are unhappy with the new law, saying the extra day won't necessarily translate into extra sales.
Alan Wilensky, , agrees. While he plans to open his store, Max’s Package Store in East Lyme, on Sundays, it is an increased burden to the small businessman.
“There will be no increase in sales because of this,” Wilensky said. “And there will be additional expenses added because of this, so by definition you have made businesses less profitable.”
Originally, Malloy’s bill the alcohol industry, which Wilensky argued would have put all the small package store owners out of business within three years. The Package Store Association managed to eliminate most of those proposals, partly by allowing Sunday sales, he said.
“If he would have just proposed Sunday sales, yes, I think we could have killed it another year,” he said. "It was part of our negotiating tactic to concede Sundays."
Meanwhile, it just means package store owners – following society in general – will have less time to spend with their family, Wilensky said. And while a March Quinnipiac poll showed 54 percent of Connecticut residents support the sale of alcohol on Sunday, perhaps buying alcohol should not be so easy, he said.
“I’m not sure you want an intoxicating substance to be dictated by convenience,” Wilensky said. “Maybe alcohol should be harder to get.”
The Package Store Association will review what times work best to stay open, or if it is worth being open at all on Sundays, Wilensky said. The next few months and years will be “trial and error” until best practices can be found, he said.