Eddie J. Jenkins is the Chairman of the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (MABCC). Ted Mahony is the Chief Investigator for the MABCC. They both recently announced they strongly oppose ballot Question 1 in the upcoming November election which would allow supermarkets to sell wine if local municipalities grant them a license. Lame duck Gov. Mitt Romney should consider removing these two public servants from their jobs for taking sides with liquor stores on this question in the midst of the campaign, but since he has issues of his own and desires to potentially run for President, it's doubtful he will do the right thing.
"We have a well thought out, responsible system of alcohol sales in the Commonwealth and we are vigilant about enforcement despite limited resources. A dramatic expansion of alcohol sales as proposed in Question 1 would undermine the system as a whole and make meaningful enforcement nearly impossible," Jenkins said in a statement that was included in a press release issued by a group funded by liquor stores and distributors fighting the ballot initiative. "There is the potential for over 2,800 new alcohol outlets flooding our communities, with no additional funding for regulatory oversight."
For his part Mahony said, "Currently, there are 2,900 package store liquor licenses in Massachusetts. Question 1, if passed, would add an estimated 2,800 new licenses for supermarkets, convenience stores and small food stores, nearly doubling the number of licensed sellers of alcohol. This increase in liquor licenses would make alcohol more accessible to underage persons, which is why I stand in opposition to Question 1."
Excuse me, but there are several facts these two gentlemen have ignored and apparently want the voters to be confused about when they enter the polling booth.
First of all, the stores that would get licenses to sell wine would be subject to state laws and have to proof people who try to purchase wine. Are Jenkins and Mahony admitting that the MABCC does not properly monitor and regulate the sale of beer, wine and liquor in the state? If so, they should be fired for not performing their duties. Or are they trying to tell us that no package stores in the state ever sell to someone with a fake ID?
Secondly, the number of retailers who apply and are ultimately granted licenses to sell wine will likely be much lower than the 2,800 being tossed around by opponents. Not every retailer has the space, the skill or the desire to go into the wine business. Also, with local officials ultimately controlling who has the ability to sell wine, you can bet not every application will be approved. Some estimates put the number of new licenses at under 1,000, about a 10 percent increase for the state when you count bars and reastaurants.
Finally, the suggestion that grocery stores selling wine will somehow lead to every 16 year old in the state suddenly getting hooked on chardonnay just does not fly. I live in North Carolina, where grocery stores can and do sell wine, along side beer. It makes it convenient for consumers and these retailers are responsible, proofing customers and monitoring employees. Selling wine along side food is also a way to teach responsible consumption, by showing the product is part of healthy living and family meals.
I would bet that Jenkins and Mahony would be in favor of tighter state controls overall on the sale of alcohol. Perhaps they would like to be in charge of a state store system. Then again, they might like to see Prohibition-style restrictions come in to play. I'm not sure, but I'm certain of one thing: these guys stepped over the line in trying to influence the outcome of the vote by scaring people into thinking Massachusetts would sink into the abyss if Shaw's or Price Chopper started selling merlot.