The state’s tax commissioner, Kevin B. Sullivan, announced recently that the state’s move to allow the Sunday sales of alcohol has been a success, citing increased tax revenue coming into the state coffers.
Sunday sales has been highly controversial as the state’s package stores association has questioned it for years, predicting that the stores would simply sell the same amount of liquor in seven days as they had previously in six days before the law changed.
Now, Carroll Hughes, the longtime chief lobbyist for the package stores, says Sullivan is jumping the gun on declaring success. Hughes noted that the state does not have even a full year’s worth of statistics to make any judgments, saying that the jury is still out on Sunday sales.
“It’s definitely premature,” Hughes said in an interview. “He can’t judge it being a success.”
Hughes argues that it’s not simply the sales levels that should be analyzed. His members, he said, have endured more overhead that includes heat and electricity on Sundays, as well as sometimes paying overtime rates for employees on a day when the shop had previously been closed. In addition, Hughes argues that much of the increased beer sales have switched to the supermarkets, which have long been open on Sundays.
“You can’t claim the success of Sunday sales when you’re down or even,” Hughes said. “My people told me they either broke even or were down a half a percent.”
But Sullivan will have none of it.
“The numbers are the numbers,” Sullivan said in an interview at the state Capitol. “I’m absolutely confident there has been an increase in sales.”
Sullivan added that he never said that all of the package stores would see increased sales or see their profits increase. Instead, he noted that non-beer sales statewide are up, adding that those sales must be at package stores because supermarkets are prohibited from selling wine and liquor.
“I think we do have the data,” Sullivan told Capitol Watch.”This ship has sailed. Last call on that argument. Time to move on.”