In late December, the Massachusetts Alcohol Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) Task Force released its 288-page final report on a comprehensive review of the legal and regulatory structures that govern the alcoholic beverages industry in Massachusetts. After collecting all its data, the task force made 37 recommendations for grocery stores, including setting no cap on retailer alcohol licenses.
According to the Massachusetts Food Association (MFA), some of the more relevant recommendations include the following:
- Removing the license limit restrictions on supermarkets and grocery stores to allow them to apply for a liquor license in any community regardless of the number of licensed already in place. This would allow the local licensing authority to decide whether or not the store would be approved for the license subject to the ABCC’s review. The task force recommended this change should not take place until after 2020 when the number of allowable licenses per entity rises from seven to nine.
- Allowing the ABCC to have the authority to require grocery stores and supermarkets to designate a separate and/or particular area to sell alcohol within the licensed building. The task force’s reasoning is to prohibit the cross-sale promotion of alcohol which could entice those prone to alcohol and to youths and not put liquor stores at a disadvantage in marketing or selling “loss leaders” to boost alcohol sales.
- Removing the provisions allowing discounts for purchases of alcohol in bulk to place all liquor licensed authorities on an even playing field.
- Prohibiting establishments from accepting goods or services that have a fair market value in excess of $50 per gift or unit gift unless they pay the wholesale cost if valued over $50.
- Allowing establishments to accept out-of-state licenses for proof of age, which may require ABCC training.
- Creating a category of alcohol license: an “all alcohol” license. Applicants can opt for beer only, wine only, spirits only or any combination.
Other task force recommendations affect franchise agreements and termination, farmer and pub breweries, ABCC staffing and budgeting, licensing provisions, disclosure, cross ownership and cross-tier investment.
According to an MFA newsletter, “Most, if not all, of these recommended changes must be done through the legislature, so realistically they have a long process to go through with the opportunity for the public to comment taking place most likely during the next legislative session. We are still going through the report and will have a more detailed summary available shortly.”