SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

March 27, 2014

Liquor store owners divided on opening early on Sundays

HAVERHILL — Doreen Rinaldi opens her small convenience store and deli before dawn on Sundays but gets most of her business in the afternoons.

The state bans Sunday-morning alcohol sales, so many of Rinaldi’s customers wait to do their shopping until they can pick up a six-pack or a bottle of wine or liquor along with their groceries. Or they go somewhere else.

A few miles away, New Hampshire’s state-run liquor outlets bustle with Sunday-morning customers, many of them from Massachusetts. Liquor and convenience stores in the Granite State, like those in Vermont, can sell alcohol as early as 6 a.m., though most open at 10 a.m.

“It’s easier and cheaper to go across the border, especially on Sundays,” said Eric Valenti, 34, of Methuen, picking up a few bottles of Captain Morgan rum at the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet in Salem last Sunday. “And it’s just a short drive.”

Owners of package stores and convenience stores along Massachusetts’ northern and southern borders have long complained that the state’s restrictions on Sunday alcohol sales give competitors in other states an advantage. In Rhode Island and Connecticut, stores are allowed to sell alcohol starting at 10 a.m.

“It would definitely help my business if people came in a few hours earlier,” said Rinaldi, whose family has operated One Stop Market on Broadway in Haverhill for more than 27 years.

Earlier this month, the state House of Representatives voted to allow Sunday alcohol sales beginning at 10 a.m. The bill, filed by a group of South Shore Republican lawmakers, is headed for the Senate. Gov. Deval Patrick hasn’t said whether he supports the legislation.

But the state’s purveyors of spirits aren’t totally behind the effort.

Some store owners said the cost of paying employees time-and-a-half for working Sundays — as required by the state’s employment laws — isn’t worth the extra business they would get from opening a few hours earlier. Others said they’d rather spend the time with family or friends.

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