More Grocery, Convenience Stores May Soon Sell Alcohol In Mass.

By Sarah Birnbaum

Oct. 18, 2011

Beer is sold at an Albertson's grocery store in California. A new compromise bill in the state legislature may make alcohol sales in grocery stores more common in Mass. (pink_fish13/Flickr)

BOSTON — Massachusetts consumers may soon see more grocery and convenience stores selling beer and wine, under a compromise bill being worked out in the state Legislature.  

Massachusetts has some of the strictest alcohol laws in the country. Supermarkets are allowed to sell beer and wine but on a very limited basis. Each grocery store chain is only allowed to sell alcohol at three locations. 
A ballot question in 2006 would have allowed all grocery stores to sell beer and wine , but it failed after a local police group launched commercials just days before the election warning of drunk driving deaths. The commercials were funded by liquor stores, worried about the increased competition. It was one of the costliest ballot fights in state history, with corporate interests pumping in more than $11 million.
Now, grocery stores are trying to put the same question on the ballot this year, a new fight could be avoided by a new compromise between liquor stores and supermarkets.
Chris Flynn, the president of the Massachusetts Food Association, says no one wants another expensive battle.
Under the agreement, grocery stores would be allowed to selling alcohol at more locations. The number of licenses would climb from three to five next year, and would rise gradually after that, so that by 2012, each store would be permitted nine location allowed to sell alcohol.
The Legislature and the governor still needs to weigh in on the deal. Grocery stores have given them two weeks to get the measure approved, before they resume gathering signatures for a new ballot question.

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