“No liquor store that I know is happy,” says Sam Sheth, owner of at 325 Chamberlain Highway, about new legislation doing away with Connecticut’s blue laws.
Signed by Governor Dannel Malloy this week, the law allows package stores and grocery stores to sell alcohol not only on Sundays, but on three federal holidays—Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day—from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Its passage leaves Indiana as the only state that prohibits sale of alcohol on Sundays.
While the new law may mean greater convenience for Connecticut customers, it means a longer week for many already overworked liquor store owners.
“I work almost 75 hours a week,” complains Gaurav Patel, known to his friends as “G.” He runs the at 324 East Main Street with his father, Jay. Sunday is the only day he gets to spend with his family.
Like G and many other small mom-and-pop store owners, Mike Patel, owner of at 854 Hanover Road, says he can’t afford to hire extra help to stay open on Sunday. He fears losing business to larger stores that can.
“For a small store, (the new law is) not a good idea,” he says. “Everybody has families, and we need at least one day off.”
“We didn’t want it from the beginning,” says G of the law. “Basically, we got forced into it.”
He told Patch that he joined hundreds of other liquor store owners in protesting the legislation at the state capitol.
“We were there lobbying every time the laws came up,” he says. But in the end, they were forced to accept the current law to avoid more sweeping liquor sale deregulations proposed by Malloy. The governor’s alternative would almost certainly have put a majority of small stores out of business, Patel insists.
When asked whether staying open on Sundays will allow them to make more money, all the liquor store owners Patch talked to said no.
“We’re not going to make any extra money. We’ll just have extra bills,” says Harry Patel, who owns at 164 Scott Street.
Any extra business he might get on Sunday will come from people who would have bought their liquor on Saturday, he says. To get the same amount of business, he will have to work an extra day and pay for the added electricity, insurance and other costs of keeping the store open on Sunday.
He says he is not planning to open on Sundays and doesn’t think staying closed will hurt his business much. But other package store owners aren’t so sure.
“Right now, we haven’t decided anything about whether to open or not,” says the owner of at 198 Hall Avenue. His name is also Harry Patel. He doesn’t think he’ll make any extra money by opening for another day, but fears he may lose existing business to competitors if he doesn’t.
“If everybody else opens and we don’t, it’s going to hurt,” he says.
Faye Godburn, who co-owns at 273 Main Street with her husband, says she knows from experience that staying open longer doesn’t mean more business. She found that out when the laws changed to allow liquor stores to stay open until 9 p.m. rather than 8 p.m.
“We didn’t gain any extra business, only extra overhead,” she relates.
Neither does Godburn buy the argument that staying open on Sunday will generate revenue for Connecticut by preventing people from crossing state lines to buy liquor on Sunday.
“People are still going to go out of state because it’s cheaper,” Godburn believes.
But despite almost universal disapproval from small liquor store owners, the blue laws are gone. And now small liquor stores are faced with a big decision about their Sundays: to open or not to open?
“A lot of us are trying to talk to each other and figure out what our options are,” says G. “At this point, we’re all saying no—at least for the moment. We’re going to wait and see how it goes.”