By Maureen Sullivan and Laura Hayes
REGION – Voters will have an opportunity to weigh in on a ballot question that would expand the availability of licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages.
According to the Secretary of State’s Office, Question 3 proposes a law that “would increase the statewide limit on the combined number of licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages for off-premises consumption … that any one retailer could own or control.”
Executive Director of the Massachusetts Package Store Association Robert Mellion, who wrote Question 3, said that a “vote yes” would allow for the “safe expansion of alcohol licenses in a manner that supports locally-owned stores and community interests, such as safe retail of a highly-regulated product, which is alcohol.”
The law would increase the licenses from nine to 12 in 2023, to 15 in 2027 and to 18 in 2031.
Further, Question 3 would not allow retailers to sell alcoholic beverages at self-checkout, and it would have the retailers accept out-of-state identification and change the fine system.
“Question 3 is designed as a compromise or an olive branch for a compromise that would expand consumer convenience but maintain safety because we’re having a lot of out-of-state bigger companies wanting to come in and sell alcohol in Massachusetts,” said Julio’s Liquors Owner Ryan Maloney.
Maloney is one of the local retailers who have voiced their support for Question 3.
He said that there were multiple bills filed last year, including about a dozen that would either get rid of caps on licenses or create new licenses for certain individuals. Question 3, Maloney said, is a compromise, but he added that it puts in safeguards for the community.
“The question is a little bit more complicated than that on the surface, but it’s actually a very common sense approach to fixing some of the inadequacies in the law to make everybody have an even playing field and keep safety in mind,” Maloney said.
He said it’s a “David versus Goliath” situation.
“This is an initiative that was started by Massachusetts-owned companies that are on Main Street, they’re the people you see every day — they’re convenience stores, they’re liquor stores, they’re grocery stores from the Berkshires to Boston that put this together in hopes that you would vote ‘yes,’” Maloney said. “The only people who want you to vote ‘no’ [is] somebody who put $3 million and is hoping they can persuade you that they’re the small guy and you should vote that way.”
Candidates weigh in on Question 3
Candidates who are running to represent the region in the state House and Senate are split on their support of Question 3, however.
“I will vote YES on Question 3, to provide more economic opportunities not only for alcohol retail businesses, but for communities that see increasing liquor licenses as a means to increase economic development,” said Jamie Eldridge.
However, Jonathan Hostage said he plans to vote “no.”
“Simply said, there are already far too many locations to purchase alcohol and marijuana too for that matter. I see no reason to expand accessibility,” said Hostage.