Opinion by Rep. Vin Candelora
Small business, which serves as the engine to Connecticut’s economy, claimed a small, but important, victory in the General Law Committee with the modifications made to the Governor’s proposed liquor reforms. Much of the debate centered on whether to allow the sale of liquor on Sundays; however, the Governor’s proposal had many more dramatic changes that would have ultimately eliminated many package stores and adversely impact distributors throughout the state. Opponents argued that the proposal would have eliminated up to 500 package stores within the next two years. The General Law Committee of the General Assembly rolled back many of the proposals and returned a critical balance back to the debate.
I’m concerned about the volume of proposals being advanced that seems to support large corporations at the expense of the small business. Whether it be reforms to hospice care to support the for-profit giants, tax proposals ultimately aimed at small, independent hotel chains to benefit the Hiltons and Sheratons, or changes to zoning laws at the request of national strip mall chains, the General Assembly is being asked to create legislative winners and losers. Greater scrutiny needs to be placed on these types of proposals, and thankfully, the first claimed victory came with reforms to our liquor laws.
One may argue that Connecticut has some of the most arcane liquor laws in the country. This reality, however, is a dangerous justification for wholesale changes to a system that many jobs and consumers have relied upon through the decades. Any changes must be carefully carved into law in order to preserve our existing jobs. Should the Governor’s proposals advance into law, I believe it would lead to mega-liquor stores entering the state to squeeze out the small business owners. Large grocery changes would obtain the ability to buy up multiple liquor licenses in order to eliminate competition regionally, and changes to the pricing structure would undoubtedly choke out any remaining small competitors to the benefit of large, bank-rolled corporations.
The current proposal restores a balance that helps small business coexist with our larger retail chains and improves consumer purchasing. Some of the major proposals that will affect consumers are the following: stores will be able to choose one item per month to discount up to 10% below cost; package stores can open on Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm, and casinos will be allowed to serve until 1:59 am.