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Mass conditioning stores aim to compromise on liquor licenses with grocery stores | News

Massachusetts packaging stores are proposing a compromise vote question that would increase the number of licenses available to grocery stores, but leave a license cap in place.

The head of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, which has filed a request with the attorney general’s office to launch a 2022 polling questions campaign, described the proposal as an “olive branch” to food and beverage stores. nearby who were previously seeking to uncork unlimited beer and wine licenses and could do so again with a proposed ballot bill.

“We should be working through the legislature, not through this process, but we’re in a situation where, if we don’t, my members are in danger of disappearing, and that’s just not acceptable,” he said. said MPSA Executive Director Robert Mellion. . “That’s the reason why, in the end, we had to do this. We felt like we had no other alternative.”

The proposal would also limit the number of licenses allowing the sale of spirits, explicitly prohibit the sale of alcohol at vending machines, and allow sellers of alcohol to rely on the identification of another state as part of a “Reasonable defense” to allegations of sale to a minor.

Sellers can currently accept out-of-state ID, but only Massachusetts ID, passports, and military cards offer a defense against liability in a sale to a minor. Mellion said some sports venues, such as TD Garden, have sometimes required customers with out-of-state ID to be 25 or older to purchase alcoholic beverages due to the current state of state law, which he said contradicted the legal landscape in all other states.

The proposal also states that any store that sells alcohol to someone under the age of 21 could be fined based on gross sales, rather than just alcohol sales, a stricter sanction aimed at cracking down on purchases by minors.

In 2020, Cumberland Farms pushed its own ballot question – which was opposed by the Packaging Stores Association – which would have created a new grocery store license for the sale of liquor and ultimately lifted all license caps. The company suspended its campaign several months before the election and said it would try again in 2022.

In an interview on Friday, Mellion said he expected Cumberland Farms and his allies to put a new question to the ballot before Wednesday’s deadline, reflecting the intent of the bills (H 318, H 319 and H 414) that allow the sale of alcohol in grocery stores or repeal licensing limits.

“We are trying to get ahead of the problem,” Mellion said.

Because many shoppers want to buy beer or wine alongside their groceries and because packaging stores depend on spirits to conduct much of their business, language could serve as a compromise that offers benefits to both camps. , Mellion said.

“We have to be the adults in the room,” he said. “This bill should be the basis of any eventual compromise in the long term. It gives [the] Mass food [Association] what they wanted. Cumberland Farms could potentially come away with nine additional licenses. It’s something our members could live with. “

Each legal or natural person is currently limited to a maximum of nine alcohol licenses in total, split between malt beverage and wine licenses and all spirits licenses. The issue supported by the package store would increase the number of liquor licenses a single company could hold to 12 from 2023, 15 from 2027, and 18 from 2031.

Only seven of these licenses, at most, could allow the sale of all alcoholic beverages and spirits, while the rest could relate to beer and wine. Any license holder with nine all alcohol licenses would henceforth benefit from acquired rights.

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Massachusetts packaging stores are proposing a compromise vote question that would increase the number of licenses available to grocery stores.


Mellion said he had informed Cumberland Farms and the Mass Food Association that he planned to file an initiative petition, but the groups did not cooperate. Supporters of the 2020 proposal could file their own competing voting question, a step Mellion said he anticipated.

A representative for the Cumberland Farms 2020 campaign could not be reached for comment on Friday. Sponsors have until office close Wednesday to file the wording of the voting questions with the attorney general’s office.