The emperor has no clothes.
–Hans Christian Andersen

In the past week, Connecticut newspapers have published two stories about the governor’s liquor reform bill that are worthy of comment.

The first of these involves Edith Prague, a State Senator from Norwich who departed Planet Earth many years ago. Senator Prague is incensed that the governor’s liquor reform bill includes a provision expanding sales of beer in convenience stores. According to Prague’s testimony and a Hartford Courant article on the issue, Prague believes that the expansion of convenience store beer sales will make people more likely to drink and drive– that we will see additional instances in which people stop into a convnience store for a single and utilize Connecticut’s permissive open container laws to drink and drive. Of course, Prague fails to forget that those who wish to engage in such behavior can just as easily buy singles at a package store.

Earth to Edith– your coming liquor apocalypse had come and gone in Massachusetts without inflicting serious harm on the general population! Take a look at these photos of the many cases and coolers of beer available for sale at the Pride gas station located on Wilbraham Road in Springfield, near the campus of Western New England University.

I frequent this Pride station out of convenience. In all the years I’ve been filling-up my car I’ve never seen a clerk sell to a minor or a person who was visible intoxicated.

Prague’s reaction to the extension of convenience store beer sales highlights the extent to which most legislators are unaware of liquor market conditions in other states, as compared to Connecticut. If Prague were to visit a state like Missouri and see the structure of the liquor markets, she would have a heart attack. In Missouri, consumers can buy beer, wine and spirits in a grocery store 24/7. There still were many package stores- but they specialized in offering a variety of products, rather than offering deep discounts on the most profitable products. The current liquor regulatory schema is antiquated and unnecessary. We need to end the price-fixing and rent seeking behaviors that have made our liquor laws such a mess. No other product enjoys the kind of price-based regulatory protection afforded to liquor retailers and wholesalers. The public accrues no benefit from the state-sponsorerd price-fixing– just the retailers and wholesalers. It is unfair to the consumers to expect us to subsidize the businesses of wholesalers and package store owners. The time has come for the restoration of consumer choice and competitive pricing in the liquor market. The time is long overdue for Connecticut to end its “nanny state” approach to regulating the sale of beer, wine, and spirits.

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And a fact check:

In a recent article, “Trouble on A Sea of Suds“, The CT Post’s Ken Dixon repeats Caroll Hughes frequent claim that his organization, the Connecticut Package Stores Association represents about 900 stores. Hughes has claimed to represent that many stores for years– and we have been skeptical of it. Now, we have data that decisively refutes Hughes’ claim to represent 900 stores. The source? The Form 990 tax returns filed by the Connecticut Package Store Association in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

The CPSA is required to disclose its dues information on its tax returns. From those raw numbers calculating the number of dues-paying members becomes a matter of raw arithmetic. It is public knowledge that CPSA’s dues are $250, therefore, the amount of dues revenue divided by 250 should calculate the number of members. Here’s what we can conclude:

Year Dues Revenue Approx. Members
     
2008 $45,436.00 182
2009 $80,000.00 320
2010 $70,650.00 283

If you don’t believe me, check the tax returns yourself, either in these attachments or on Guidestar. Here are years 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Certainly 283 member is a far cry from the 900 members that Mr. Hughes has consistently claimed to represent.

Mr. Hughes’ prevarications about the size of his membership get squarely at the issue of credibility. Why should legislators trust him to tell them the truth when he can’t give them a straight answer about how many members his organization has?

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