SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

March 12, 2014

House OKs bill to allow earlier Sunday retail alcohol sales

BOSTON — Game-day football tailgaters and other weekend event planners in Massachusetts would be able to buy beer and alcoholic beverages on Sunday morning rather than waiting until noon, under legislation that has cleared the Massachusetts House.

On voice vote and without debate, the House last Wednesday approved a bill (H 228) that would legalize Sunday alcohol sales starting at 10 a.m. — two hours earlier than allowed under current law.

Rep. Elizabeth Poirier, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said she and a few other lawmakers have been pushing for earlier alcohol sales for years. Poirier, a Republican from North Attleborough, said it will particularly help retailers who border Rhode Island and New Hampshire.

“It makes a huge difference, in particular for us, on days when there are Patriots games. People go to a game and tailgate,” and they are unable to buy beer and wine before they leave for the game, Poirier said.

The bill, also sponsored by Rep. Kevin Kuros (R-Uxbridge) and Rep. Steven Howitt (R-Seekonk), is now before the Senate Committee on Ethics and Rules, chaired by Sen. Stanley Rosenberg of Amherst.

Poirier said residents who live close to the Rhode Island border will drive 20 minutes out of their way to buy alcohol earlier on Sunday morning before heading back to Gillette Stadium for the game.

“So, they go to Rhode Island and they spend a lot of money,” she said. “While they are there, they put gas in their car; they buy food. Same thing happens up north. They can just go over the border and get whatever they want, whenever they want.”

Howitt, who represents Seekonk near the Rhode Island border, said the Ocean State last year eliminated the sales tax from liquor, but not beer and wine, and permitted stores to open at 10 a.m. The changes in Rhode Island caused Massachusetts retailers near the state line to lose sales, Howitt said.

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