October 22 2014

Selectmen Say Wegmans Can Sell Alcohol Late for Opening, Discuss Permanent Bylaw Change

By: Rich Hosford

The incoming Wegmans grocery store will be able to sell alcohol past 6 p.m. on Sunday for its grand opening, but that may be the only time it is allowed to do so. 


The Board of Selectmen held a special meeting Wednesday evening and one of the items on the agenda was a one-time license for the new grocery store. Wegmans asked permission to sell alcohol until 11 p.m. on Sunday, October 26, for its grand opening celebration. 


The board voted unanimously to allow Wegmans to sell alcohol until 10 p.m. 


The board also discussed changing the liquor law for Sunday sales permanently. As reported by BNEWS, the store proposed at a previous meeting that the town amend its bylaw that prohibits the sale of alcohol after 6 p.m. on Sundays.   


During that meeting, Attorney Joseph Devlin, representing Wegmans, said the weekend is a busy time for shoppers. 


"Saturdays and Sundays are big shopping days for supermarkets,” he said. “If Wegmans has to stop selling beer and wine at 6 p.m. customers suddenly won’t have access to the whole experience. The food is meant to be paired with wines, it’s part of the Wegmans concept.” 


Members of the board did discuss a change to the bylaw during the special meeting but took no vote because it was no on the agenda. The vote is expected to be taken up next Monday. 


Chairman Bob Hogan and Selectmen Ralph Patuto, who are on the subcommittee that handles alcohol-related issues, said they recommended not changing the law. 


Hogan said he didn’t feel there was a compelling reason to change the law and that the smaller alcohol outlets in town were not in favor of it. 


“If people can’t get their wine or something I understand their disappointment,” he said. “But I don’t think people are planning their day around buying alcohol on a Sunday night.” 


Patuto added that the smaller liquor stores in town feel they would be compelled to stay open later on Sundays if Wegmans was selling alcohol at that time. He said this both puts a strain on those businesses and increases the chances of robbery. 


“We spoke with the police and late night is the most hazardous time for small businesses,” he said. “There is usually a smaller staff working at night and that makes employees more vulnerable.” 


Patuto added being open later would also mean that the smaller businesses would have to have employees work at a time they’ve traditionally had off or to hire extra people. 


“Many people who work at liquor stores over the weekend are doing it for supplemental income,” he said. “If they are working all day and night Sunday, we’re just taking them away from their families.” 


Selectman Dan Grattan asked why Wegmans should be restrained due to the concerns of other businesses. 


Patuto said that was a good point and that the board cannot look like it is engaging in protectionism. He said all the reasons together led him to his decision to recommend against changing the bylaw. 

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