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House of Representatives
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: December 11, 2020 03:06 PM
From: Representative Jason Ortitay
To: All House members
Subject: COVID-19 Safety Act for Alcohol Sales in Grocery Stores
In the coming days, I plan to re-introduce legislation (former HB 2406) to further protect the health and safety of our Commonwealth’s residents when they’re shopping in grocery stores and other food-focused retail establishments. In response to an unprecedented public health crisis, retailers are implementing a multitude of safety procedures to protect customer access to critical food and pharmacy items. Perhaps most importantly, retailers are tasked with enforcing social distancing requirements to ensure customers can expect a safe personal perimeter while shopping in-store. However, as a result of an archaic law with outdated language, the wine and beer sections of the stores are essentially forcing customers into dangerous proximity simply to make their legal purchases.

Without changing any necessary restrictions on beer and wine licensing or adding additional licenses, my bill will merely allow customers to access these products within the main grocery sales area and purchase them at any register staffed by a sales clerk on the premises of existing licensees.

Due to the aforementioned antiquated language, customers currently can only purchase beer and wine within those dedicated sections of a grocery store or similar retail establishment. These sections were not constructed or carved out with social distancing in mind. Not only does this pose a danger to those making their legal beer and wine purchases, but in fact poses a public health threat to anyone shopping and working in these businesses as the lines are often spilling into other sections of the stores making safe spacing an impossibility. This is only multiplied by the fact that customers wishing to purchase beer or wine as part of their larger shopping trip actually have to check-out twice, doubling their interaction with employees and lengthening the time customers are outside of their homes.

In addition to building up grocery pick-up and delivery options to reduce the overall number of customers in-store, these retailers have already made significant changes to the register areas to incorporate safety measures. It is inconceivable that our own law is putting our residents at risk by not allowing customers to utilize these safe spaces for any legal purchase. With the liquor control board closing the state-owned stores, beer and wine sales in many retailers have increased over five times year-over-year making these dangerous bottlenecks even more prevalent. Some of these new customers are unfamiliar with the volume limitations causing an even more lengthy check-out time at the dedicated beer and wine checkout locations and causing tempers to flare at a time when we are urging calm.

My legislation is simple, straight-forward and truly common sense in the midst of this pandemic. I ask you to join me in protecting the health and safety of our residents by cosponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as HB757