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Market Watch: Power Struggle Over Massachusetts Retail Tier Intensifies

May 27, 2022

Voters in Massachusetts may have final say in a battle for control over the beverage alcohol retail tier. The Massachusetts Package Store Association (MPSA) is preparing to start a second signature campaign for a ballot question that the organization views as a compromise with larger retailers who seek unlimited beverage alcohol retail licensing.

“Large retailers are seeking marketplace control,” says Rob Mellion, president of the MPSA and vice chairman of government affairs at American Beverage Licensees. “The food and convenience store chains are lobbying at a level they haven’t previously. Everyone is trying to take a piece of local retail, and our membership is fighting like their livelihood depends on it because it does.”

The MPSA has until mid-June to get another 13,300 signatures from people who didn’t sign the first signature campaign. If the measure reaches the ballot and voters approve it, the number of beer and wine licenses an entity can have will increase from nine to 18. The number of full liquor licenses per entity would decrease from nine to seven. Associations for the retail and convenience store chains Total Wine & More and Cumberland Farms oppose the initiative.

The initiative also prohibits the sale of alcohol at self-checkout and bases a fine for selling to a minor on gross store sales rather than just beverage alcohol retail sales. “Alcohol sales are necessary to us but ancillary to a lot of people that want to come into the business,” says Ryan Maloney, president of MPSA and owner of Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, Massachusetts. “If you want to be in the business, you should be playing by the same rules. The penalty needs to be big enough to shape behavior. If you are a bigger store, you have a bigger penalty.” Market Watch has more.

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