Food stores

Packaging stores compromise to grocery stores on licenses, ceiling issue

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 an application with the attorney general’s office to launch a 2022 polling questions campaign, described the proposal as an “olive branch” for grocery stores and community who previously sought to uncork unlimited beer and wine licenses and can do so again with their own proposed ballot law.

“We should be working through the legislature, not through this process, but we are in a situation where if we don’t do this my members are in danger of disappearing, and that is just not acceptable,” the director said. MPSA Executive Robert Mellion. “This is the reason why we finally had to do it. 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” against sales allegations. 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 the law. State, which he says contradicts 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. minors.

In 2020, Cumberland Farms pushed its own ballot question, which was opposed by the Packaging Stores Association, which reportedly created a new grocery store license for the sale of liquor and ultimately lifted all license ceilings. 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 bring forward a new ballot question before this week’s deadline reflecting the intent of the bills (H 318, H 319 and H 414) that allow alcohol sales in grocery stores or repeal licensing limitations. “We are trying to get ahead of the problem,” he 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 for any future compromise. It gives Mass Food 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 those licenses at most could allow the sale of all liquor and spirits. , while the rest could be for beer and wine. Any license holder with nine all alcohol licenses would now benefit from acquired rights.