One year ago, Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg convened an Alcohol Task Force to review the state’s alcoholic beverages industry. The idea was to generate “forward looking” recommendations of ways to modernize the state’s alcoholic beverage regulations. All matters relating to alcoholic beverages are broadly under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (“ABCC”), an agency within the state Treasurer’s department.
In late 2017, the Task Force released a lengthy report containing numerous findings and recommendations. https://www.mass.gov/news/alcohol-task-force-report
As an example, regarding grocery stores, the Task Force recommended:
- That local licensing authorities (LLAs) have the authority to decide the number of liquor licenses to be issued to grocery stores and supermarkets in their community. This would be a marked change from the current law, which puts a “quota” on the number of off-premises or “package store” licenses available in particular municipalities, based on their population; and
- That the ABCC be able to require grocery stores and supermarkets to designate a separate and/or particular area to sell alcohol within the licensed building, preferably with a separate door entrance and separate from the general areas to purchase non‐alcohol products.
Another Task Force recommendation proposed adopting a rule that out‐of‐state drivers licenses be an acceptable form of identification that a customer is of legal age to purchase alcohol in Massachusetts. Another calls for more flexibility regarding licensee manager eligibility, despite prior criminal records.
The Task Force’s report only contains recommendations – it does not by itself change anything. Its recommendations are subject to legislative and administrative review and modification before any may be enacted. Even if its recommendations are substantially changed, or ignored, the report is worthwhile as a snapshot of an alcoholic beverages industry in transition, as well as a road map for routes into a future that may, or may not, be taken.