While sympathizing with small retailers, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg declined to take a position on an impending election campaign that could spark a drastic shift in liquor sales across the state.
The Massachusetts Package Stores Association has drafted what it calls a compromise vote question that, over a decade, would double the combined number of liquor and beer-wine licenses a business could hold.
According to the proposal, the number of licenses a retailer could control would gradually increase from nine to 12 in 2023, 15 in 2027 and 18 in 2031.
Up to seven of these licenses could be used for the sale of liquor and spirits, while the remainder would be for beer and wine. Any license holder who already has nine liquor licenses would benefit from acquired rights.
Goldberg, who oversees the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, said the agency enforces laws governing the alcohol industry, offers advisory opinions and makes decisions on alcohol matters as a group. quasi-judicial.
“I don’t have a position on this because, frankly, we’re a regulator,” Goldberg told Bloomberg Baystate Business last week. “So it’s really an individualized approach that voters have to think about. “
However, after taking a stance, Goldberg said if the motivation behind the referendum is to push back major industry players, like Total Wine, then it’s a “worthy” one.
“I’m a great person in supporting mom-and-pop operations. And I think having been an old fashioned retailer, I think if you want to have big operators, they have to really have a connection to the community.
Goldberg’s business roots go back to a family-owned grocery store that grew to Stop & Shop, one of the region’s premier supermarket chains. She turned to the civil service after the takeover of Stop & Shop.
The MPSA described its proposal as an “olive branch” for food and convenience stores, including Cumberland Farms, which previously sought unlimited beer and wine licenses.
The ballot measure in parcel shops would also limit the number of licenses for the sale of spirits and explicitly ban the sale of alcohol at automatic checkouts.
State election supervisors reported earlier this month that the initiative petition was one of three whose campaigns filed certified signatures with the state before the deadline.
We don’t know the position of Cumberland Farms or other chains, but the MPSA ballot issue appears to strike a competitive balance that benefits both parties.
This is certainly an improvement over the contradictory tenor displayed at a joint legislative hearing in September.
This showdown for market share has been preparing for several years.
Rob Mellion, head of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, told the Legislature’s Joint Commission on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensing at the time that the 17 bills he wanted to discuss demonstrated the upheaval in his industry.
“But this 17 is part of a hundred bills that are weighed before you throughout this legislative session. I have said many times … that the motivation behind many of these bills is driven by a push in the interests of big business towards control of the market.
Although he refrains from taking an official position, it is evident that our State Treasurer supports the spirit of this question of the ballot in the spirit of compromise.
Small businesses, like the majority of independent parcel stores represented by the MPSA, are the biggest job creators in Massachusetts and all other states.
That is why we support both the letter and the spirit of this referendum.