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Massachusetts Voters May Decide if Food Stores Can Sell Wine

Collection of voter signatures may get issue on ballot next year

Eric Arnold
Posted: September 19, 2005

Massachusetts, which has some of the nation's most antiquated liquor laws, may see some changes in the months ahead. The Massachusetts Food Association (MFA) has successfully lobbied the attorney general's office to allow it to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that would permit food stores to sell wine.

Liquor stores--known as package stores in Massachusetts--objected to the effort. Backed by the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, whose members stand to lose business, made several legal attempts to block the MFA's efforts. But the attorney general's office rejected those challenges and decided to leave it up to the voters.

"It just makes common sense to update our state's laws so that Massachusetts food stores can sell wine and operate on a level playing field," said MFA president Chris Flynn in a statement.

Massachusetts' secretary of state will prepare the petition forms for signature collection in the next two weeks. The MFA will have to collect at least 65,825 certified signatures--equal to 3 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates for governor in the last state election--to get the issue on the ballot. If that number is reached, voters will decide in November 2006 on "An Act to Increase Consumer Convenience and Choice by Permitting Food Stores to Sell Wine." If they vote in favor of it, food stores will be able to apply for special "wine at food store" licenses, which will be subject to local approval and annual fees, just like normal liquor licenses.

"It's the fair thing to do, and it will benefit consumers and our state's economy," said Flynn.

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