My home state of Connecticut has maintained Sunday Blue Laws regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages since the beginning of time. Last Saturday, January 14, 2012, Governor Malloy (D) wants to repeal that law paving the way for Sunday sales, as well as longer hours during the week and later saloon hours. I know this is a popular idea, but I cannot support it at this time.
The liquor business is not my favorite business, but I give credit where credit is due—it is one of the last retail businesses in the Nutmeg State that is still dominated by small business owners. Supermarkets can sell beer, but not wine or spirits. Al’s Liquor Warehouse notwithstanding, most package stores in Connecticut are Mom and Pop establishments, many with no hired employees, only the owner working six days a week from 8 AM to 9 PM in accordance with the current state statutes. If Sunday sales are permitted, small business owners will be forced to work a seven-day work week and have no life outside the store, or be forced to close and if that becomes a trend, the chain liquor warehouses and the possibility of supermarkets selling more than just beer will evolve, killing the last vestige of small business to speak of in our state.
The argument is that Connecticut is losing $570 million in revenue as Connecticutites drive across state lines (New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) on Sundays to purchase. Those who live near state borders probably do, but at $3.70 per gallon, I doubt those in Central Connecticut fill the tank at these prices just for a bottle of something. In addition, this number is an ideal case. Liquor is a highly regulated business with age minimums and regulations regarding serving anyone who appears intoxicated. I cannot see people changing their drinking habits just because laws enable it. Most sellers will see the same amount of customers changing their shopping habits; instead of a line ten deep at a package store counter on a Saturday, you would see maybe a line six deep on a Saturday and five deep on s Sunday.
When the idea was first on the table last year, Bridgeport’s WICC radio held a brief interview with a man who worked closely with Carl Bennett, the founder of the now defunct Caldor department store chain, last owned by May Company. Until the mid 1970s, Connecticut Blue Laws affected all retail operations over a certain size. Bennett was against repealing the Blue Laws although when repealed, he did open Caldor stores on Sunday, arguing that his liability insurance for employees would increase with the buildings unlocked for customers seven instead of six days, making profit increases minimal. The nature of the liquor business will make the insurance issue far greater in magnitude—another factor that could run the little guy out of business and have an effect on the taxation of chain liquor warehouses, grocery stores, and supermarkets.
I believe the future of America and the New American Dream will require a small business friendly environment and this move by Governor Malloy is counterproductive to reaching that goal. Connecticut is a prime example as a state that needs to go the small business way. All you have to do is observe the state of the state’s infrastructure and rail systems and yet the way the state is going, commuting into cities like Manhattan is getting to be the only option left for income of Nutmeg Staters not independently wealthy. In 2007 when I first relocated from lower Fairfield County to the Naugatuck Valley, the first big headline confronted with was the Peter Paul candy factory in Naugatuck shutting down and operations moving to the commonwealth of Virginia. This is a virtually recession-proof big business. We are taxing big business out of state and we are not making the state small business friendly. With the largest per capital deficit of all fifty states, it just does not make sense. Small business owners can contribute just as much to the state’s tax structure by enabling more of them to be created and even with lower tax rates, collecting in volume. Let Connecticut become the small-business capital of the Northeast starting with the one business it has that is small-business dominant and then working with other types of business as well. There is a 99-1 division among owners too, with big chain and box stores making more profits, paying less taxes, and the ability to employ enough for 24-7 operations with nary a one employee working over forty hours a week.