• Home
  • News & Trends
  • Monday, June 13, 2022 3:51 PM | Anonymous
    Logo Description automatically generated 

    Alcohol License Question Survives High Court Challenge
    SJC Sees "Integrated Scheme" In Licensing Overhaul
    Katie Lannan 6/13/22 2:02 PM

    STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 13, 2022.....An initiative petition seeking to change state liquor-licensing laws remains alive after the Supreme Judicial Court on Monday ruled that Attorney General Maura Healey correctly certified it to appear before voters on November's ballot.

    The high court rejected a challenge to Healey's certification, which argued the question did not meet the Constitutional requirement that initiative petitions contain only matters that are related or mutually dependent.

    In a decision penned by Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt, the court found that the question "presents an integrated scheme whose various provisions serve the common purpose of loosening some of the current restrictions on the number and allocation of licenses for the retail sale of beer and wine for off-premises consumption, while taking steps to mitigate the potential negative effects of this expansion."

    Backed by the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, the proposal would gradually double the number of allowable licenses any one retailer can hold to 18 by 2031, but also reduce the cap on licenses specifically for the sale of all alcoholic beverages -- beer, wine and liquor -- from nine to seven. The total cap of 18 would cover both licenses for all alcoholic beverages and those for just beer and wine sales.

    The proposal would also change the way fines for liquor-sale violations are calculated and put new rules in place prohibiting self-checkout of alcoholic beverages and allowing retailers to accept out-of-state IDs.

    The package stores group has pitched its proposal as a compromise 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. Opponents, including groups representing supermarkets and convenience stores, have knocked it as an attempt to stifle competition from retailers that sell a broader array of products.

    Plaintiffs in the case Colpack v. Attorney general had argued that the proposal does not meet the relatedness requirement and would "require the electorate to cast a single vote on five competing and disparate subjects raising significant and distinct policy questions about the number of off-premises licenses a retailer may own (and where), about what regulatory burdens should be imposed on different types of retail channels (and license tiers), and about what practices should be allowed to provide greater choice and convenience for consumers."

    Wendlandt wrote that there "is no bright-line rule" to follow in deciding if the components of an initiative petition are related or dependent.

    "We also have determined that initiative petitions containing multiple provisions involving a variety of different regulatory issues nonetheless may meet the related subjects requirement..., so long as the provisions are part of an 'integrated scheme' of regulation," Wendlandt wrote.

    The State of Massachusetts Health Care

    In 2020, the court similarly ruled that Healey had been correct in certifying a different proposal involving alcohol sales, which sought to create a new alcohol license type for food stores and eventually eliminate cap on how many alcohol sale licenses any entity could hold.

    The backers of that effort, led by convenience store giant Cumberland Farms, dropped their bid amid the COVID-19 pandemic's toll on the retail sector.

    In Monday's ruling, Wendlandt cited past instances where the court has struck proposals that did not meet the relatedness requirement, including a 2006 question that sought to expand animal-cruelty laws and abolish parimutuel dog-racing; a 2016 question that spoke to both Common Core learning standards and state assessment tests; and the original 2018 version of a question seeking to impose a surtax on income over $1 million and dedicate the revenue to education and transportation needs.

    The court threw out the surtax question in 2018 because it found that the tax and the subjects of the earmarked revenue were "not related beyond the broadest conceptual level of public good."

    A constitutional amendment imposing surtax is now set to appear before voters this November, after its backers instead advanced it to the ballot through the Legislature, a process where the relatedness requirement does not apply.

    The surtax question is once again subject to a legal challenge, this time taking issue with the summary that Healey has prepared for voters.

    The SJC is also due to decide in relatedness challenges to two other questions on track for November's ballot: one involving classification of and benefits for gig-economy drivers, and another seeking to impose a profit limit on dental insurers similar to those applied to health plans.

    The proponents of the driver classification, dental benefits and liquor-licensing ballot questions have until Wednesday, June 22 to submit their next round of signatures to local officials to continue on their path to the ballot. The signatures must be turned in to Secretary of State William Galvin by July 6.

  • Monday, March 28, 2022 12:19 PM | Anonymous
  • Tuesday, March 22, 2022 2:05 PM | Anonymous

    Grouse launches whisky on Amazon

    Source: https://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/

    By Melita Kiely

    March 21, 2022

    Scotch whisky brand The Famous Grouse has released its first online-exclusive whisky: The Famous One.

    The Famous One is a blend of grain and malt whiskies, hand-chosen by The Famous Grouse master blender. The liquid was aged in a mix of Sherry-seasoned American oak casks and ex-Bourbon American oak barrels.

    The casks were specifically chosen to deliver sweeter, more honeyed flavours. Tasting notes include citrus, vanilla, fudge and toffee.

    Joakim Leijon, global brand director at The Famous Grouse, said: "We wanted to create a blend that allowed people enjoying whisky for the first time to explore a softer, sweeter, flavour profile.

    "The Famous One retains all the brand's complexity and smooth texture but with the additional honeyed, citrus and vanilla characters it truly stands out on its own.

    "The aim was to create a modern and more indulgent take on The Famous Grouse: one that is still perfect for sharing with friends but designed to be enjoyed in a range of smooth, sweet whisky serves."

  • 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.




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

Contact Us

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software