Two ballot questions to change the law regarding the sale of alcohol in supermarkets were recently filed with the State Attorney General. The Boston Herald reports that the MA Food Association is attempting to increase the total amount of permits that can be held by any one chain.
Currently, Massachusetts law restricts an individual or corporate entity to holding no more than three alcohol permits. This means that a supermarket chain can only sell alcohol from a maximum of three of its locations, regardless of how many individual stores are in the state. This generally explains why certain supermarkets sell beer and wine from only a few locations and not others. Supermarkets must choose which three stores will sell alcohol, which can create problems in store uniformity and customer expectations.
Supermarkets and many customers have been pushing for this law to be changed for years. Senate Bill 1851, if approved by the legislature, would increase the amount of licenses available to a supermarket chain from three to twenty. The bill would also restrict the number of licenses that could be held by a supermarket chain to one per town and two per city. The local licensing authorities would still have to approve a permit application for each location and all alcohol permit quotas would still apply.
It remains to be seen whether Attorney General Martha Coakley will certify either ballot question or whether the legislature will vote favorably on Senate Bill 1851. Needless to say, change could be coming to a supermarket near you but don’t plan to drink-up just yet.