Sunday Sales Begin In Connecticut

May 21, 2012

For many package stores in Connecticut, this is the morning after. They’re tallying up the take from their first ever day of Sunday sales. WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

They knew it was coming, but up until last week, package store owners didn’t know exactly when.

“It’s done….”

Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law the legislation that sweeps away Connecticut’s blue laws and allows alcohol sales on Sundays. That made yesterday, Sunday the 20th of May, the first day package stores were legally allowed to open in Connecticut. Some immediately took advantage, like the Divine Wine Emporium in Niantic.

“Well when we heard it we were kind of excited. We were originally going to start Memorial Day weekend, but we thought, why not – let’s give it a go. Just opened the doors!”

Mary Taylor is an employee here. This store is next to a campground and just a mile away from Rocky Neck State Park, so she was counting on the warm weekend to bring in business. But…

“I have no idea. I’m sure as we get closer into the summer and we have the beach traffic it’s probably going to be very, very busy, but as for our first day of business, I really don’t know. I mean we have our people that come in here on a regular basis to buy wine, but how many people are going to be in here on a Sunday – I’m not really sure what to expect.”

“Because nobody in our industry has ever had to do this before, there is a lot of unknown.”

Alan Wilensky didn’t open his East Lyme package store, Max’s, yesterday.

“Because of the lack of notice as to when the bill was going to be signed by the Governor, I just don’t have the staff, so we will start our Sunday openings on Memorial Day weekend.”

Wilensky has been a staunch opponent of Sunday sales for decades. But he says now the bill is law, he doesn’t agree with legislators that he can choose whether or not to open.

“That is a lack of understanding of the retail trade by people who are legislating.”

His nearest competition, just on the other side of the intersection, is a supermarket – he knows for sure they’ll be selling beer every Sunday.

“There is no additional overhead for grocery stores. All they have to do is remove the tarp from their beer displays. They are already open, the staff is already there.”

Wilensky doesn’t want to lose that business, and at least through the summer, he’ll open on Sunday afternoons. But he says all the day means to him, is extra payroll cost – and he’s not convinced extra sales will cover the expense.

"There will be delayed business, there will be business that is deferred from Saturday, accelerated from Monday or Tuesday. I really don’t see that there will be additional business. I don’t think anybody’s going to drink more because we are open another day of the week.”

By the end of Sunday, those package stores that did open reported mixed fortunes, depending on their location. Shoreline and border stores seemed to do particularly well, but others said the day was quieter. Governor Malloy is counting on an additional $570 million in liquor sales each year because of Sunday opening, and hoping that some $5.3 million of that comes to the state in additional tax revenues. Small businesses around Connecticut will discover in coming weeks whether that hope will be realized.

For WNPR, I'm Harriet Jones.