Gov. Malloy to resurrect efforts to change Connecticut alcohol pricing, wants to expand hours

Economic Indicators Associated Press

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Friday he wants the General Assembly to revisit Connecticut's alcohol laws, calling on legislators to pass extended hours for purchases and make changes to the state's fixed pricing system.

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The Democrat's latest proposals, first announced on a morning radio program, come three years after he tried to overhaul state alcohol laws. While the industry opposed many of Malloy's plans then, the legislature agreed to allow retail sales on Sundays and certain holidays.

"This is absolutely about consumers being treated in our state as well as they've being treated in other states," said Malloy, who said he's concerned Connecticut consumers are crossing into neighboring Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts to make their alcohol purchases because of lower prices.

Malloy's proposed legislation — to be unveiled Wednesday during his budget address — would allow retailers to set, and theoretically reduce, their own prices. However, they would not be able to sell it below the per-bottle price they paid the wholesaler.

Malloy will face some resistance, as he did in 2012. But he appeared unsympathetic Friday to the position of his potential opponents.

"People who don't support this support Connecticut consumers being gouged," he said, adding how he thinks the market should set the price and not those who have "the interest other than consumers in mind."

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Carroll Hughes, a longtime lobbyist for the package stores, said his members will actively oppose the legislation, which also calls for increasing the maximum number of liquor store permits per owner from three to six. It would retain, however, the current municipal cap that limits package store licenses at one per 2,500 residents.

Hughes contends Malloy's proposals ultimately benefit chains that want to move into Connecticut and run small family-owned stores out of business.

"It's like the one-two punch," said Hughes. He said Malloy wants to drop prices while introducing larger stores that can afford to buy in bulk and sell at cost.

"I've got these people. They're not rich people. They work probably 80 hours a week. They try and do the job the right way," said Hughes, referring to his member package store owners. "I see their faces, and these people don't deserve to be pummeled by a system because they've done nothing wrong."

Hughes contends the state is to blame for higher alcohol prices, pointing to how Malloy and state lawmakers increased both the state alcohol tax and sales taxes in 2011.

"The only gouger is the state of Connecticut," Hughes said, in response to Malloy's comments.

Malloy's plan also extends the hours that package stores may sell alcohol to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Currently they must stop selling at 9 p.m. On Sundays, Malloy's plan would allow stores to remain open until 8 p.m. They currently must close by 5 p.m.