Massachusetts voters rejected Question 3 on Tuesday, defeating a measure that would have altered regulations around liquor licenses in the latest struggle between small, independent liquor stores and large retail chains over who can sell alcohol at what volume.
With 95 percent of the ballots tallied as of about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the “No” votes accounted for about 55 percent of the total votes cast, the Associated Press reported.
The outcome effectively means voters decided to keep the state’s current regulatory framework intact, and the long-running fight between locally owned liquor stores and “big box” retailers will likely return to the Legislature next year.
Had it passed, the measure would have gradually increased the number of locations where a single company can sell beer or wine, from nine to 18. It would also reduce the cap on all-alcohol licenses, or the number of locations where a company can sell hard alcohol, from nine to seven. The proposal included an exemption for any company that already holds eight or nine all-alcohol licenses.
The measure also would have implemented requirements for retailers to accept out-of-state driver’s licenses for age verification, ban alcohol sales through self-checkout machines, and change the formula for calculating fines for stores that sell to minors or intoxicated people so that it is based on all retail sales, including food and gasoline, and not just alcohol sales.
The Yes on Question 3 campaign was supported by the Massachusetts Package Stores Association which argued it represented an update to state liquor laws that protected locally owned liquor stores and would have doubled the number of beer and wine licenses a company or individual could control.
“This election should serve as notice to out of state-based food store chains and big box retail to stop the needless disruption, abide by state regulations and recognize that Massachusetts communities do not want unrestrained off-premises outlets selling high volumes of alcohol beverages at the cheapest price,” Ryan Maloney, association president and the owner of Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, said in a statement.
The trade association said it will now have to return to the Legislature for legal protection against efforts by national chain stores to deregulate the industry.
The Total Wine & More chain funded a campaign in opposition to Question 3, the Globe reported. A message sent to the company seeking comment on the voting results was not returned Wednesday.
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