Senate Approves Bill To Increase Cap on Off-Premises Licenses

The Senate has approved and sent to the House a bill that would allow supermarkets and other large retailers to hold more alcoholic beverage licenses. The proposal increases the current cap of three to five in 2012, seven in 2016 and nine in 2020. The measure also would require stores to pay a $5,000 fee for every license they receive above three.

The bill is considered a compromise between opposing sides of a possible 2012 ballot question that would allow local cities and towns to permit grocery stores to sell beer and wine. The ballot question is being pushed by the grocery store lobby, and opposed by the liquor store lobby.

In 2006, voters rejected by a 53-41 margin a similar ballot question that would allow local cities and towns to permit grocery stores to sell beer and wine. Proponents had argued that 34 other states allow this and argued it would end a monopoly and save consumers millions of dollars by fostering more competition. Opponents said the measure would increase underage teens’ access to liquor and lead to a hike in drinking-related problems and drunken driving accidents and deaths.

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