(The Center Square) – The Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional is targeting changes in the sales of alcohol in the Bay State.
Trade associations offered differing viewpoints on several bills that were presented by the Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
The committee held a public hearing on 27 proposed bills affecting retail sales of alcohol, and one had unanimous support. H.436 would allow retailers and restaurants to accept out-of-state identification as proof that patrons are 21 or older. Massachusetts is the only state that does not accept out-of-state identification for alcohol sales.
“We have far more pressing issues impacting the recovery of our industry, but this is an issue that has been out there for a number of years and we do think the time is right for the commonwealth to act on it,” said Steve Clark, vice president, government affairs for the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. “Our border towns are in fierce competition to attract customers from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island and many of our hottest economic development destinations are only a short drive from the border.”
Rob Mellion, executive director and general counsel for the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, said some of the bills were “a push by large corporations” for control of the marketplace.
H.379, which would allow retailer-backed coupons, is an example, Mellion said. Ed Cooper, vice president of public relations and community affairs for retailer Total Wine & More disagreed and said state consumers would be the winners because when “retailers compete, the customer benefits.”
Another point of contention was H.422, which would allow alcohol sales on Thanksgiving. Cooper pointed out that supermarkets and convenience stores are open and this is a “customer convenience bill.”
“We would be open to modifications that allow for limited hours,” Cooper said.
The Massachusetts Package Stores Association opposes the bill and that “no local retailer of box wine and spirits wants to be open on Thanksgiving.”
Other bills listed included:
• H.367 would allow permanent alcoholic beverage takeout by bars and restaurants. An emergency order from Gov. Charlie Baker allowed the practice during the pandemic. “This could be disruptive to our industry,” Mellion said.
• H.363 would prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages using self-checkouts. Mellion said his organization supports the bill.
• H.343 would allow cities or towns to collect a fee of up to 25% when a liquor license is transferred.
The committee did not vote on any of the bills. Commission Chairman Tackey Chan, D-Quincy, said written testimony was also submitted.