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  • Thursday, March 17, 2022 12:46 PM | Anonymous
  • Tuesday, March 15, 2022 10:10 AM | Anonymous

    Packies Forcing Beacon Hill To Examine Retail Landscape

    Licensing Ballot Question Draws Industry Opposition

    Matt Murphy3/14/22 5:32 PM

    MARCH 14, 2022.....After dodging what would have been a well-financed ballot campaign to lift the cap on alcohol licenses for food stores, Massachusetts package store owners told lawmakers they've come to the table with a compromise that is essential for their future survival.

    The Massachusetts Package Stores Association has proposed a change to state liquor licensing laws to double the number of allowable licenses any one retailer can hold to 18 by 2031, but to reduce the cap on licenses for the sale of all alcoholic beverages - beer, wine and liquor - from nine to seven.

    The proposal wending its way toward the November ballot would also put new rules in place prohibiting self-checkout of alcoholic beverages and allowing retailers to accept out-of-state IDs.

    "One reason we have this ballot question is because of the change in the retail landscape of large corporate interests seeking to take over the marketplace," testified Rob Mellion, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association.

    The initiative, however, is being opposed by a hoard of food industry groups, including the Massachusetts Food Association representing supermarkets, the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Association, Cumberland Farms, Whole Foods and Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

    Cumberland Farms began an effort in 2020 to put a question on the ballot that would have created a new alcohol license for food stores and gradually eliminate the cap on the number of licenses retailers can hold. The national chain abandoned the campaign as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, and opted against a second effort this year in favor of working with the Legislature on a bill (H 318) to create a new category of licenses allowing food stores to sell beer and wine.

    While the convenience of one-stop shopping has proven popular with consumers, package store owners say the ability of large corporations to dominate the marketplace and rewrite the rules in their favor is threatening their livelihoods.

    MPSA stepped up with its own proposal that it is pitching this year as a middle ground.

    "This is probably one of the only ballot initiatives you will ever get that is not entirely self-serving, because we have looked inside ourselves and said, 'What can we compromise on?'" said Ryan Maloney, president of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association and owner of Julio's Liquors in Westboro.

    The Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure held an afternoon hearing on the petition (H 4377) where package store owners described their proposal as essential to preserving a share of the alcohol retail market in Massachusetts for small, independently-owned businesses as large out-of-state corporations muscle into the space.

    The Retailers Association of Massachusetts, however, said the proposal was laced with "poison pill provisions" and said that despite its support for expanding existing caps on licenses the organization opposed the bill as presented.

    "We consider this to be overreach and a blatant attempt to stifle competition from businesses that seek to offer a wide array of products," RAM General Counsel Ryan Kearney said.

    Kearney's concerns were echoed in many of the letters submitted in opposition.

    "It is not fair or rational to limit multi-store grocers to a limited number of full licenses they can hold statewide simply because they sell food," wrote Brian Houghton, senior vice president of the Massachusetts Food Association.

    Matthew Durand, senior counsel for Cumberland Farms, told the committee in written testimony that the ballot question's "flaws and inadequacies" failed to address the concerns of food stores, and the company remains interested in working toward a legislative solution.

    The Legislature has until May 4 to act on the petition before proponents will go back into the field to collect the remaining 13,374 voter signatures required to qualify for the November ballot. If lawmakers choose not to act before that deadline, a legislative compromise could still be reached, before signatures must be turned in to Secretary of State William Galvin by July 6, to stop the question from appearing on the ballot.

    Rep. Tackey Chan, a Quincy Democrat and the House chair of the committee, did not indicate whether he thought there was an appetite in the Legislature to take this issue on in the coming month, though he encouraged all players to continue talking.

    The Retailers Association of Massachusetts said it opposes two provisions in particular in the ballot question: the reduction in the cap of all-alcohol retail licenses and a new method for calculating the fines a retailer can pay in lieu of a license suspension if found selling alcohol in violation of state laws.

    Fines levied under the ballot question would be calculated based on an establishment's gross receipts on all retail sales rather than just their gross alcohol sales, potentially putting a greater financial burden on retailers who sell more than just alcohol.

    Maloney said the new fine structure is necessary to keep honest large corporate retailers whose alcohol sales amount to a small percentage of their overall business.

    "If you can still operate without alcohol sales, is the penalty really going to change your behavior? I don't think so," Maloney said.

    But Kearney called it "unjustly punitive" and disputed the suggestion that it would only impact big-box chains like Walmart.

    "A small bodega on Main Street that has 50 percent sales from alcohol and 50 percent from other goods would have their fines doubled," Kearney said.

    The retailers association also said the reduction in the cap on licenses for the sale of all alcoholic beverages would be a "regression" from the law passed a decade ago that only fully went into effect in 2020 boosting the cap to nine.

    "We do believe there's a reasonable middle ground that should be explored but we know the nature of this as a ballot initiative may not lead to such negotiations," Kearney said.

    In 2006, voters rejected a ballot question championed by supermarkets that would have allowed food stores to sell beer and wine. Five years later, with supermarkets and other interest groups threatening to go back to the ballot in 2012, legislators struck a deal to avoid the ballot fight by increasing the cap on the number of licenses for all alcohol sales a business can hold from three to nine.

    Chan noted that because the petition is a ballot initiative the committee cannot amend the proposal, but in the past the Legislature has been able to negotiate compromise legislation on other issues that was sufficient to convince ballot questions proponents to drop their campaigns.

    The increase in the license cap for retailers would rise gradually, under the ballot question, from nine to 12 in 2023, to 15 licenses in 2027, and to 18 licenses in 2031.

    "It has been said by some opponents that this ballot initiative is radical or it is discriminatory. It is nothing of the sort," Mellion said.

    Mellion also said the cap is significantly higher than any other state in the country that has a three-tier alcohol regulatory system - producers, distributors, and retailers. "This ballot initiative creates 18 licenses for out-of-state interests who have been seeking unlimited licenses for 20 years. That's a compromise," he said.

    Tina Messina, owner of Wine Connection in North Hanover, said the provision in the proposed ballot question prohibiting self-checkout of alcohol purchases is also a critical element.

    "When I see things like self checkout, I shake my head," Messina said, arguing that it requires human interaction to prevent alcohol sales to minor or to someone who might be intoxicated when they attempt to purchase alcohol.

  • Friday, February 25, 2022 3:20 PM | Anonymous

    Sweeney Departing After Seven Years at Lottery’s Helm

    Top Exec Oversaw Record Profits, Modernization Efforts

    Colin A. Young2/25/22 10:31 AM

    FEB. 25, 2022.....The executive director who has steered the Massachusetts Lottery through its most profitable years and pushed to modernize the agency is departing next month for a job in the private sector.

    Michael Sweeney, who has led the Lottery since 2015, informed Treasurer Deb Goldberg in a letter this week that he intends to resign from his position effective March 8. He told the News Service that he has accepted a new job, but did not say where or what position he would hold.

    "Seven years is long enough for one individual to lead a major public agency, particularly given the organizational transformation of the Massachusetts State Lottery over that time period," Sweeney wrote in the letter. "The current Lottery is strong, modernizing and positioned for future growth. With 70% of the current fiscal year completed, the Lottery is on track to once again set records for overall sales and profits."

    Before 2016, Sweeney said, the Mass. Lottery had never turned a profit of $1 billion or more for the Legislature to dole out as aid to cities and towns across Massachusetts. But since fiscal year 2017, the Lottery has set and broken numerous sales and profit records and has topped the $1 billion mark three times. The agency is expected again to generate at least $1 billion for local aid this fiscal year.

    "I want to thank Michael for his countless contributions to the Massachusetts State Lottery over the last seven years, and am grateful for his prior service at the State Treasurer's Office," Goldberg, who oversees the Lottery, said. "I wish him well in all his future endeavors."

    Goldberg said she has appointed Mark William Bracken to serve as interim executive director of the Lottery as she begins a search for a more permanent leader for the agency. Bracken has worked in the Treasury since 2011. He is currently an assistant treasurer and director of the state's Unclaimed Property Division.

    During his time leading the Lottery, Sweeney oversaw the move of the Lottery from its longtime headquarters in Braintree to Dorchester, the retirement of the large old blue Lottery terminals and the installation of more than 7,500 new retail terminals, the adoption of new policies meant to crack down on ticket cashers who help winners avoid tax or child support payments, and the implementation of a ticket scanning and prize claiming app, which Sweeney said was "the most significant lottery advancement since the introduction of instant tickets in the 1970s."

    Sweeney was not able as executive director to secure the authorization for the Lottery to sell its products online, something he and Goldberg have vocally advocated for years. At various times, Sweeney compared the Lottery without an online presence to an old rotary phone -- "revolutionary in its time" but also "a little bit clunky" -- and to the Titanic -- "We have been doing very well, but what I like to remind people is that the night before the Titanic hit the iceberg, it was setting a new record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean."

    Before joining the Lottery, initially as an interim executive director who was to assist with the search for a permanent leader, Sweeney had served as deputy general counsel for the Massachusetts State Treasury since 2010. He previously worked as planning director in Lawrence, where he also served on the city council. Sweeney is a Lawrence native and is an alumnus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and City University of New York Law School.


  • Friday, February 11, 2022 1:19 PM | Anonymous



    February 10, 2022

    Martignetti Companies, New England's leading distributor of wines and spirits, today announced the formation of a new Corporate Fine Wine Division that will focus on expanding the Company's fine wine business across Massachusetts. This expansion allows us to take a more specialized approach with our portfolio and offer more consultative services for our customers and supplier partners.

    This new division will be led by the newly promoted Corporate Fine Wine Director, Dennis Gilligan, who brings more than twenty years of industry experience to the position. Reporting to Dennis will be three Corporate Fine Wine Specialists, Jessica Brennan, Ashley Kompass, Lois Leonard, and Brad Fichter, Corporate Wine Educator. Gilligan will report to Michael Martignetti, Senior Vice President, Wine.

    The new team will engage and support our fine wine supplier partners. With a strategic focus on the corporate fine wine portfolio, our fine wine suppliers will gain enhanced access to fine wine customers and, thus, will be well positioned to meet their needs. 

    "Focusing on Fine Wine is of the highest priority at Martignetti Companies, this new team is evidence of our strong commitment to the future growth for our fine wine business and support for our fine wine supplier partners and customers," said Chris Conrad, President, Sales and Marketing.

    "We are thrilled to announce the additional support and investment into our fine wine business," said Michael Martignetti, Senior Vice President, Wine. "The foundation of Martignetti Companies lies in our fine wine portfolio. This new team is a strategic effort to enhance our focus both for our supplier partners and statewide customers."

    The members of the Corporate Fine Wine Division will be integral to our internal wine education programs. They will work closely with all wine divisions and our suppliers to further increase their knowledge of fine wines and develop customized training programs for our customers. Our goal is to continue to offer our customers insight into the world of fine wine and support their journey to continue to grow and thrive as the demands of the marketplace change.

    About Martignetti Companies

    Established in 1908, Martignetti Companies is the leading distributor of wines and spirits in New England and the 6th largest in the country. Based in Taunton, Massachusetts, the Company currently operates in five New England states: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.

    For more information, visit www.martignetti.com



  • Thursday, January 27, 2022 8:04 AM | Anonymous
  • Tuesday, December 21, 2021 11:53 AM | Anonymous

    Beverage alcohol sellers are required to verify the age of consumers to ensure alcohol doesn't fall into the hands of minors, and states are on the lookout for businesses that fail to verify age in the proper way.

    Age verification requirements for direct shippers are set by each state, yet only about seven states have explicit requirements for verifying age for direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales. The remaining states prohibit sales of alcohol to minors but may not have explicit guidelines detailing how direct shippers must verify the age of consumers.

    When a transaction takes place face to face, it's easy to ask for the consumer's identification. Verifying age is more difficult for online sellers, but there are four key age verification processes available for direct shippers:

    1.    Affirm the age of the consumer before they shop by restricting access to digital content

    2.    Collect the purchaser's date of birth, which is required on some returns

    3.    Verify the purchaser's age

    4.    Require the deliverer to inspect identification and obtain a signature at the point of delivery


    The following states have clear age verification guidelines for direct shippers of alcoholic beverages.

    Arizona. Licensees must verify the purchaser is at least 21 years of age by obtaining a copy of a valid photo identification as prescribed in section 4-241, subsection K. Alternatively, a licensee may use an age verification service.

    Georgia. Licensees must require the person placing the beverage alcohol order to "state affirmatively that he or she is of the age required by Code Section 3-3-23" and verify the age of the orderer either by physically examining an approved government issued form of identification or by using an approved online age and identification service.

    Indiana. Licensees must obtain proof that the consumer is at least 21 by checking a state or federal government issued identification card. If in-person verification isn't possible, a photocopy or facsimile copy that's mailed or electronically transmitted is acceptable, as is a computer scanned, electronically transmitted copy. Alternatively, the licensee may use an age verification service. Direct wine shippers must tell carriers to verify the recipient of an alcohol shipment is at least 21 as well. Records must be maintained for two years.

    Kansas. Licensees must require the person placing the order to "state affirmatively that he or she is 21 years of age or older." Additionally, the licensee must verify the age of that person "either by the physical examination of an approved government issued form of identification or by utilizing an internet based age and identification service approved by the director of alcoholic beverage control, or the director's designee." Kansas provides a list of approved internet-based age and identification service providers.

    The carrier is responsible for obtaining the signature of an adult who is at least 21 years of age "as a condition of delivery."

    Michigan. Licensees must verify the age of the individual placing the order by obtaining a copy of a photo identification issued by this state, another state, or the federal government, or by using an identification verification service (several have been approved by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission). Michigan also requires the person receiving and accepting the order on behalf of the qualified retailer to record the name, address, date of birth, and telephone number of the individual placing the order on the order form or other verifiable record of a type and generated in a manner approved by the commission and provide a duplicate to the commission. For alcohol deliveries, recipients must show identification verifying their age and sign for delivery.

    Oklahoma. Licensees must require consumers to verify, "by electronic means or otherwise," that the consumer is at least 21 years of age. Direct wine shippers must ensure the deliverer or common carrier obtains the signature of a person aged 21 or older.

    South Dakota. Direct shippers must verify the age of the person placing the order by obtaining a copy of the person's valid age-bearing photo identification document issued by this state, another state, or the federal government, or by using an age verification service. The direct shipper must also record the name, address, date of birth, and telephone number of the person placing the order on the order form or other verifiable record. Finally, the direct shipper must notify the person placing the order that the recipient is required to show a valid age-bearing photo identification document issued by this state, another state, or the federal government upon delivery.


    Failure to confirm the age of customers is risky for businesses.

    States periodically engage in sting operations to determine whether beverage alcohol sellers are checking identification as required. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control runs a well-publicized Minor Decoy Program to "reduce the number of licensees who sell alcohol to minors and reduce youth access to alcohol." For the first offense, a business can be fined or have its license suspended. The license is automatically suspended after a second offense and may be revoked after a third offense. The Oregon Legislature is looking to require the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission to develop uniform standards for a similar minor decoy program.

    The South Dakota Department of Revenue is required to penalize businesses that sell alcohol to minors, with penalties ranging from $500 to $2,000 and/or suspension of license. Recently, the state sent emails to direct shippers reminding them to renew their licenses, register all products, and verify the age of consumers. It advised direct shippers to either obtain a copy of every customer's identification at the point of sale (and retain it for three years) or use an age verification program to ensure customers are actually of age. The department also warned that failure to verify age as required could lead to a $1,000 fine per shipment - a penalty the department issued a few times in 2021.

    In a nutshell, direct shippers must do more than ask customers to check a box stating they're 21 or older.

    Similarly, the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission recently issued warning letters to some licensees. The letters explain that Massachusetts prohibits sales of alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 years of age under M.G.L. c. 138 §19F, and that the commission could impose the following penalties:

    ·         First violation: 180-day suspension of the direct shipper license or a fine of $1,000, or both

    ·         Second violation: 1-year suspension of the direct shipper license or a fine of $2,000, or both

    ·         Third, or subsequent violations: 2-year suspension of the direct shipper license or a fine of $5,000, or both

    The commission then encouraged recipients to ensure their company accepts orders and payment for alcoholic beverages only from persons who are 21 years of age or older.

    One way to ensure age verification is to contract with a third-party age verification service provider.


    The fact that age verification is required puts direct shippers in a tricky spot because verifying the age of the consumer generally requires a transfer of sensitive personally identifiable information, such as a driver's license or passport. As Avalara for Beverage Alcohol General Manager Jeff Carroll notes, copies of these documents must then be maintained for up to four years for audit purposes - and protected.

    Using an age verification service like Avalara Age Verification for Beverage Alcohol allows you to obtain the information you need to verify the age of consumers without the added burden of storing that information in your business systems. Visit Avalara for Beverage Alcohol to learn more.




Massachusetts Package Stores Association, Inc.
30 Lyman St., Suite 2 / Westborough, MA 01581
Phone: (508) 366-1100 / Fax: (508) 366-1104

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