August 9, 2005
GROCERY AND PACKAGE STORES
By: Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst
You asked for a brief summary of Liquor Control Act provisions relating to grocery stores and package stores.
The Liquor Control Act governs the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. It includes provisions (1) governing the activities of the Liquor Control Commission and the Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) relating to liquor, (2) allowing towns to prohibit the sale of liquor within their borders and to control where it may be sold through zoning, (3) establishing a three-tier system of liquor sale and distribution, brand registration, and price and credit regulation within the industry, and (4) prohibiting certain sales. Permittees holding a grocery beer permits or package store permits must comply with all of these provisions.
In addition to these provisions of general applicability, the Liquor Control Act has provisions specifically relating to grocery and package stores. A grocery store is one that primarily sells food; it may qualify for a grocery beer permit allowing it to sell beer.
A package store may sell all types of alcoholic beverages but may not sell any other kind of commodity except for a relatively short list of allowable items specifically allowed by law.
Both grocery and package stores must notify the public when applying for a liquor permit. The notice must be published twice in a local newspaper. Town residents can then petition DCP to hold a hearing on the suitability of either the applicant as a permit holder or the proposed premises as a place to sell liquor.
The law prohibits DCP from issuing a permit where prohibited by local ordinance or to a permittee in a dry town.
It allows DCP to refuse to issue any kind of permit, other than a grocery beer permit, based on certain factors related to location—such as proximity to a church or school or the prior use of the establishment as a lewd or disorderly house. There are no such restrictions relating to grocery stores.
The law prohibits anyone from owning more than two package stores except for certain businesses that were grandfathered when the prohibition took effect in 1981.
The law allows a grocery store with a grocery beer permit to lease up to half of its premises to other businesses but prohibits DCP from issuing a liquor permit to those other businesses.
Grocery and package stores may sell during the same hours—generally 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They must close on certain holidays.
Under the Liquor Control Act, a “grocery store” is a store commonly known as a supermarket, food store, grocery store, or delicatessen that is primarily engaged in retailing a variety of food. Grocery stores may apply for a “grocery beer permit,” which allows the retail sale of beer for off-premises consumption. The annual permit fee is $80 plus 6¼% surcharge, for a total of $85 (CGS §§ 30-20(b) and 30-66).
A package store permit allows the retail sale of all types of alcoholic liquor for off-premises consumption. The law prohibits a package store from selling any commodity other than those specifically allowed by law. These are liquor, cigarettes, publications, bar utensils, gift packages or baskets that include liquor, nonalcoholic beverages, concentrates used to make mixed drinks, beer and wine making kits, ice, clothing imprinted with liquor industry logos, and lottery tickets. Package stores may offer free samples for tasting on the premises and conduct demonstrations. They may also conduct tastings for charities for a nominal charge. All tastings must be conducted during lawful days and hours of sale. The annual permit fee is $400 plus 6¼% surcharge, for a total of $425 (CGS §§ 30-20(a) and 30-66).
The law limits the number of package stores in a town to one per every 2,500 residents, as determined by the most recent decennial census (CGS § 30-14a).
APPLICATION PROCESS—PUBLIC NOTICE
An applicant for either a grocery or package store permit must apply to DCP for a liquor permit. The application must include the name of the applicant's backer (owner), if any, the location of the proposed premises, and a financial statement stating all the financial details of related business transactions. Once DCP has determined that the application is complete, it sends a “placard,” or sign, to the applicant who must post it outside of the proposed premises. It states the applicant's name, the type of requested permit, and the “filing date.” The applicant must publish two notices in a local newspaper describing the type of permit being sought. They must be published in two successive weeks, with the first being published no more than seven days after the application's filing date and the second, no more than 14 days after.
The law allows a group of 10 or more residents to file a “remonstrance” with the DCP stating any objection they may have about the suitability of an applicant for an initial liquor permit or the proposed place of business. A remonstrance must be filed within three weeks after the last day that the permit applicant's notice was published. If a remonstrance is filed, the department must hold a public hearing after giving at least five days notice.
The law prohibits DCP from issuing a permit where prohibited by local ordinance. It also prohibits issuing a permit in “dry” towns. Bridgewater, Eastford, Roxbury, and Wilton are dry towns (CGS § 30-44).
DISCRETIONARY REFUSAL BASED ON LOCATION
Except for grocery stores, the law allows DCP to refuse to issue a permit if it reasonably believes that (1) the proximity of the premises will have a detrimental effect on a church, public or parochial school, convent, charitable institution, hospital, veterans' home, or military camp, barracks, or airfield; (2) the location is so close to a dry town that it is apparent that the seller's intent is to obtain the town's patronage; (3) the number of permit premises in the town is such that granting another will be detrimental to the public interest; (4) the place has been conducted as a lewd or disorderly establishment; (5) the owner does not have the legal right to use the premises; (6) drive-up sales are being made; or (7) there is any other lawful reason to refuse to issue a permit. The law also authorizes DCP to suspend, revoke, and refuse to renew a permit on these grounds (CGS § 30-46).
The law generally prohibits the owner or permit holder of one permit class from being the owner or permit holder of another and makes numerous exceptions to the rule. One exception allows the owner or permit holder of a grocery store to be the owner or permit holder of a package store if this was the case before May 1, 1996 (CGS § 30-48).
The law prohibits someone from owning or acquiring an interest in more than two package stores (CGS § 30-48a). It grandfathers businesses that held more than two such permits on June 8, 1981.
LEASING A PART OF A GROCERY STORE
The law allows a grocery store with a grocery beer permit to lease up to 50% of its total square footage to another business, but it prohibits DCP from issuing any kind of liquor permit to the lessee business (CGS § 30-51a).
HOURS AND DAYS OF SALE
The law sets the same permissible days and hours of sale of liquor sales for both grocery stores and package stores. They may sell from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Monday through Saturday. They may not sell on the following holidays: Memorial Day, July Fourth (unless it falls on a Saturday), Labor Day, Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, or Christmas. But if July Fourth, Christmas, or New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, they may not sell on the following Monday (CGS § 30-91(d)).