Conn. Committee Passes Sunday Liquor Sales Bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A proposal to overhaul Connecticut's liquor laws and allow for Sunday alcohol sales passed its first legislative hurdle on Tuesday, but it was only a partial victory for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as a committee eliminated some of the Democrat's proposed changes.

The legislature's Committee on General Law voted 15-3 in favor of the proposal, but the modified bill eliminates the governor's recommendations to allow convenience stores to sell beer, extend restaurant hours and increase package store hours until 10 p.m.

If the legislature approved the modified proposal, Connecticut residents could begin buying alcohol from package stores between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays. Connecticut would be the 49th state to allow Sunday alcohol sales.

Office of Policy and Management spokesman Brian Durand said that while Malloy will push for the bill to do more for consumers, he will support the legislation. Durand said that even if the final version is the same as the one voted out of committee, the governor's administration would consider Sunday liquor sales an enormous success.

Vincenzo DiNatale, owner of Ives Road Wine and Spirits in Wallingford, testified against the proposal at a public hearing last month, but said the modified legislation addresses the concerns of package store owners.

"It seems like a reasonable compromise," he said.

DiNatale said the only provision he currently does not completely support is the measure allowing package stores to sell one item below cost. He said he and other store owners feel it would be hard to enforce and the measure needs to be clearer.

Committee members said a bill provision to create a task force to study potential effects of deregulating the state's liquor industry pricing and other liquor law changes should help. The task force would be made up of lawmakers, consumer advocates and experts, and would be required to report back to the committee in January 2013.

Committee members said the provisions will help small businesses be competitive, especially with bordering states.

According to the legislature's nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis, the committee's proposed liquor law changes would add an estimated $5.3 million in new revenue for the state.

For years, many package store owners have argued that retail alcohol sales on Sundays would put many small stores out of business because they would have to hire additional staff. But the Connecticut Package Stores Association recently announced it would drop its opposition to Sunday sales and focus on other parts of the governor's proposal.

Committee co-chair Rep. Joseph Taborsak, D-Danbury, said the legislation is pro-consumer and pro-small business.

"I think we've struck that balance," he said. "We've gone as far as we can in a short session."