Alcohol retailer files lawsuit against state over minimum pricing laws

(File)


(WTNH) — A big liquor store chain is taking Connecticut to court over a law that it says drives up liquor prices for consumers, but small stores say it protects them from shutting down.

“It is price-fixing, that is what it really is,” said Total Wine and More Vice President Edward Cooper.

Cooper says it is sanctioned by state laws and mandates. Now, they have filed a lawsuit challenging the state law in federal court.

“These laws and these regulations on anti-trust. To say that these laws are unfair and illegal,” said Cooper.

Here is how it works in Connecticut. By law, every month the wholesalers release a mandated price for every beverage in Connecticut. For example, Josh Cellars Cabernet has to be sold at minimum of $14.99. Total Wine and More is selling it below the state law at $9.99 because they say it is just not fair. Cooper says where else, what other industry, can wholesalers mandate exactly what price the retailers have to sell it?

“In Connecticut, it’s anywhere from an excess of 20 to 30 percent higher then you will find in any of the neighboring states,” said Cooper.

We did a price comparisons between Connecticut and Massachusetts liquor stores:

Jameson Irish Whiskey
CT – $49.99
MA – $42.99

Josh Cellars Cabernet
CT – $14.99
MA – $12.99

Tito’s Handmade Vodka
CT – $29.99
MA – $28.99

On top of filing the lawsuit, this month Total Wine and More has lowered their prices on some beverages below the state mandated levels in all their Connecticut stores to compete with the other states.

Shopper Kathleen Bragnole says she goes where she has to to get the best price.

“I buy all the time in Massachusetts and now I find this store and here is where I come now,” said Bragnole.

The Office of Governor Malloy put out a statement saying:

There is no question – Connecticut consumers artificially pay more in our state for products that they can easily obtain for less in neighboring states. The laws are backwards. That’s why Governor Malloy has supported changes to Connecticut’s minimum bottle law to address this very issue almost every year he’s been in office. He stands with consumers.”

Some of the small mom-and-pop stores say if the law is repealed it would crush them financially.

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