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March 04. 2014 4:37PM

Bottle store blues: The useless grocery mandate

State law requires “grocery or convenience store” retailers of alcoholic beverages to stock at least $3,000 worth of “groceries ... exclusive of cigarettes, magazines, newspapers, wine and beverages.” The requirement is a needless burden on the growing number of boutique beer shops in New Hampshire, and it should be repealed.

Unfortunately, a bill to repeal the regulation, House Bill 1277, has received an “inexpedient to legislate” recommendation from the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. Writing for the majority of the committee, Rep. Edward Butler, D-Harts Location, stated: “The sale of food at stores with beer and wine hopefully encourages consumers to enjoy one with the other.”

Hopefully?

This is no justification for a regulation that burdens small, mom-and-pop retailers considerably. The law forces stores to stock $3,000 worth of inventory (often snack foods and salsas) that few if any customers buy. It compels small retailers, for whom space is a premium, to offer low-profit items their customers do not want — on the apparent assumption that people who buy beer in bottles and cans have no food at home with which to enjoy their alcoholic beverages. (Note: There is no such requirement for state liquor stores.)

This regulation serves no useful purpose. It only reduces the profits of craft beer stores. It should go.


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