Will the Legislature OK Thanksgiving Day Liquor Sales?

Photo by Jeff Kubina, courtesy of Creative Commons

J.D. Capelouto
Boston University Statehouse Program

A version of this article was also published in The Lowell Sun

BOSTON — It’s Thanksgiving Day. You’re on the way to a friend’s house when you realize you forgot to bring an adult beverage.

But no liquor stores are open, per current Massachusetts law. And none of the convenience stores are able to sell alcohol.

That’s the story state Rep. Colleen Garry, a Democrat who represents Dracut and Tyngsboro, heard from a constituent, and is the reason she filed a bill to make it legal for stores to sell alcohol on Thanksgiving.

“They were just thinking that it was a convenient time for people to be able stop on the way to an event on Thanksgiving,” Garry said in an interview.

The bill went before the Legislature’s Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure for a hearing earlier this week.

Garry said it does not make sense that convenience stores, many of which open on Thanksgiving, cannot sell alcohol if they have it on their shelves.

“Stores that have (alcohol), you can stop in you can get bread, you can get soda, you can get anything else but you can’t buy the alcohol,” she said.

Currently, liquor sales are illegal on Thanksgiving and Christmas in Massachusetts. That law, Garry said, most likely originated from the “Blue Laws” in the Colonial days, when it was seen unholy to drink alcohol on a holiday.

While Garry said the law would make celebrating Thanksgiving more convenient for residents, employees at several liquor stores in Greater Lowell said they would prefer not to be open on Turkey Day.

Sam Patel, a manager at Lowell Liquors, said “the holiday is for family together, and they could celebrate together.”

Ly Heng, who works at Muldoon Liquors in Dracut, said she would also personally prefer the family time on Thanksgiving.

“I think we work too much already — Thanksgiving, Christmas all those special holidays, should be closed,” she said. “I think we need a few days at least.”

Garry said the liquor stores would not have to open on Thanksgiving if they don’t want to. But that wouldn’t be an option because of competition, Patel and Heng said.

“If there’s an option to be staying open we have to stay open because of the other stores being open, too,” Patel said.

Heng said Muldoon would most likely have “no choice” but to open.

“We cannot just close,” she said.

Their remarks echoed arguments made by the Massachusetts Package Stores Association two years ago, when Garry filed the same bill. At a similar hearing in 2015, liquor store owners testified against opening on Thanksgiving, according to the State House News Service .

“We’ve always looked at Thanksgiving Day as probably the single, only family day of celebration when people have a chance to get together, and we view Thanksgiving Day as one that should remain closed so store owners have this opportunity,” the association’s Executive Director Frank Anzalotti said in 2015.

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