|April 27, 2020 05:45 PM
|Senator Judy Ward
|All Senate members
|Improved Consumer Access to Wine & Beer at Grocery Stores
|I plan to introduce legislation 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, the way our Liquor Code is written 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 would allow restaurant licensees with a wine expanded permit the ability to sell wine and beer at any register, require ID card readers at these registers, permit a sales clerk under 18 to operate these registers except when alcohol would be purchased then an employee 18 or over would then operate the register. The bill also eliminates the liquid fuels sales alcohol prohibition and allows customers to access beer and wine within the main store area.
Due to the aforementioned 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.
I ask you to join me in cosponsoring this important legislation.
Introduced as SB1176