BOSTON (State House News Service) – A national package store chain on Friday launched a campaign to rally consumers behind their proposals to update the Massachusetts laws governing the sale of beer, wine and spirits.
Total Wine & More, which operates stores in Natick, Everett, Shrewsbury, and Danvers, is seeking to loosen restrictions on selling alcohol at discounted rates, to allow alcohol retailers to offer coupons or loyalty programs, and other “updates.”
“In broad terms, what we want to be able to do is look for opportunities to offer sensible changes to update and modernize these laws,” Edward Cooper, vice president for public affairs and community relations at Total Wine & More, said. He added, “these are antiquated laws created in prohibition or right after prohibition. It’s a different world now.”
The social media-assisted Consumers First initiative launched Friday aims to get beer, wine and liquor drinkers behind Total Wine & More’s proposed changes, which will be presented to an Alcohol Task Force assembled by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.
The task force was put together to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s alcohol laws, and Cooper said Total Wine & More wants the review to include things that would promote savings and a better customer experience.
“Retailers in Massachusetts have the ability to bulk buy and have a bulk buying discount that we and other retailers can avail ourselves of, but we’re not allowed to pass on that discount to consumers,” Cooper said. “We would like to be able to offer as deep a discount as is permitted by using that bulk buying discount that we receive and pass that on to the consumer.”
Cooper said Massachusetts law and regulation prohibit retailers from passing their bulk buy discount to consumers, and that Total Wine & More will “seek a change in both statute and regulation to be able to enable all retailers to be able to pass those discounts on.”
The initiative will also pursue a change in Massachusetts law to allow alcohol retailers to offer customers coupons and loyalty programs, like offering $5 off a purchase of $50 or more, for example.
“Retail backed coupons are used in all other retail environments, but not in the retail sale of beer, wine and spirits. That just doesn’t make sense to us,” Cooper said. “We’re looking for the ability for us and all retailers to serve the consumer in terms of what they want, and they want the lowest prices, they want the best selection and they want the best service.”
Cooper said both proposals would bring Massachusetts into line with the majority of the 20 states in which Total Wine & More operates.
The Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, an agency under the treasurer’s office, oversees the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture and possession of alcoholic beverages in Massachusetts.
The Alcohol Task Force is scheduled to meet twice next week — Tuesday in Foxborough and Thursday in Leominster. Chaired by attorney E. Macey Russell, the task force includes former Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong, attorneys Kate Cook and Deborah Gold-Alexander, former Massachusetts Port Authority chief legal counsel Rachael Rollins, former Inspector General Robert Cerasoli, and Pete Wilson, the press secretary to Senate President Stan Rosenberg.