While we would opt for a regulatory overhaul that brings increased competition to the retail sale of alcoholic beverages along with Sunday sales, a partial victory is certainly better than none.
The fight to end the post-Prohibition law that prevents consumers from picking up a bottle of wine or six-pack of beer on Sunday has raged for years in Connecticut. In every instance the powerful package store lobby, representing business owners who did not want the hassle or expense of staffing stores on Sundays, has successfully fought Sunday-sale legislation.
But in a major breakthrough, the legislature's General Law Committee Tuesday approved 15-3 a bill that would allow package stores to open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. While the bill still must move to other committees and win General Assembly approval to become law, it appears the momentum is solidly behind ending the arcane blue law.
It has made no sense to exclude this one, legal product from Sunday sales. The prohibition only serves to inconvenience consumers and send business to neighboring states where alcohol can be purchased on Sunday.
If the legislature ultimately approves Sunday sales, consumers will have Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's push for comprehensive reform to thank. The governor also wants to lift price controls and licensing limitations that prevent robust competition. Only when faced with that prospect did the Connecticut Package Stores Association reverse its long-standing opposition and endorse Sunday sales, hoping in return it could head off the rest of Gov. Malloy's proposal. In that regard, the association will likely be successful. The bill approved by the committee eliminated the pro-competition proposals.
Package store owners argue that without regulatory protection big-box retailers and large outlets would force many of them out of business. But the purpose of government regulation should be to assure fair competition, not pick sides.
It appears Gov. Malloy will have to settle for a significant victory, Sunday sales, and renew the rest of the debate at some future date.