Liquor stores employ 19,000 people in Massachusetts and generate $97 million in excise taxes, according to the Massachusetts Package Stores Association. “If you don’t have to take that away from the state, then you don’t want to,” one lobbyist said.
BROCKTON – Massachusetts liquor stores are considered “essential” and can remain open even as other retail businesses shut their doors until at least April 7.
bst365体育投注网址大全Massachusetts’ new emergency order, announced by Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, groups liquor stores among the state’s designated “COVID-19 Essential Services,” which include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and health care facilities.
bst365体育投注网址大全Other “nonessential” businesses are being asked to shutter their physical locations for at least two weeks, and could face a civil penalty for failure to comply.
bst365体育投注网址大全The decision came as a surprise to many liquor store employees in the Brockton area, who saw a bump in sales last week as customers stocked up on alcohol in preparation for potential closures.
bst365体育投注网址大全(Editor's note: This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Enterprise.)
bst365体育投注网址大全“We were playing it day by day,” said Jason Mencer, a manager at Blanchard’s, one of Brockton’s largest liquor stores. “People were concerned we were going to close and didn’t want to miss out.”
Mencer said he’s thankful he’s employed while many others in the retail industry face layoffs, but a cashier at Blanchard’s said selling liquor while the coronavirus continues to spread seems dangerous.
“I feel if they’re going to close everything, they should actually close everything,” said the cashier, who asked not to be identified because it could affect the cashier's employment. “Why does a liquor store need to be open right now?”
bst365体育投注网址大全Baker said Monday, "Food and beverage operations, which would include package stores, fall in as essential."
bst365体育投注网址大全"That's driven by federal policy as much as anything else and is in every single other order that we've read in every other jurisdiction that's issued one at the state level," Baker said.
bst365体育投注网址大全Rob Mellion, a lobbyist who directs the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, said the governor was also weighing a variety of economic and public safety concerns.
bst365体育投注网址大全“If one state allows liquor sales and another doesn’t, then you encourage interstate travel,” Mellion said, adding that such travel could hasten the spread of the coronavirus.
Without a legal alternative, Mellion said black markets would develop quickly for the sale of wine, beer and spirits.
bst365体育投注网址大全“There are already speakeasies developing in Massachusetts due to the closure of bars and restaurants,” Mellion said.
bst365体育投注网址大全There were also clear economic stakes associated with the closure of liquor stores, which Mellion said his group highlighted when communicating with the Baker administration in advance of the emergency order.
Liquor stores employ 19,000 people in Massachusetts and bring in more than $97 million in excise taxes, according to the Package Stores Association.
bst365体育投注网址大全“If you don’t have to take that away from the state, then you don’t want to,” Mellion said.
His group has also helped draft legislation that would enable restaurants and bars to temporarily include sealed alcoholic beverages like beer and wine among their takeout options.
bst365体育投注网址大全Mencer, the manager at Blanchard’s, offered another reason why liquor stores should stay open: alcoholics might need medical treatment for withdrawal symptoms otherwise, placing an unwanted burden on hospitals that are already pressed to provide care at this time.
bst365体育投注网址大全Across town at Defto’s Liquors, customer Jason Eisele said he is among the people who would be at medical risk if liquor sales were prohibited.
“Some of us have a disease called alcoholism and without liquor you have seizures,” Eisele said. “You don’t want to go to the hospital for a seizure right now. It’s dangerous.”
bst365体育投注网址大全John McGarry, the recently appointed leader of Brockton’s health department, agreed that withdrawal could create an unwanted secondary problem during a health crisis unlike anything he’s seen in his lifetime.
While some liquor stores are still experiencing a bump in sales, others say the period where customers were stocking up on alcohol in case of mass closures has ended.
bst365体育投注网址大全“The last few days have hurt the business,” said Mac Patel, a manager at Defto’s. “At this point, I look at the decision to stay open as whether or not my employees are getting paid.”
Staff writer Ben Berke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org