Opponents of ballot question that’d lift limits on liquor licenses make their case at State House

BOSTON — Opponents say one upcoming ballot question could lead to an explosion of retailers allowed to sell beer and wine. It's a proposal backed by convenience stores and other retailers that would lift limits on liquor licenses.

On Monday at the State House, opponents had a chance to unload on the proposal at a public hearing.

Doctor David Jernigan, a public health professor at Boston University, was one of several opponents testifying Monday against a ballot proposal that would expand the number of licenses to sell beer and wine at convenience stores.

A part of his testimony included a map of high-crime hot spots in Baltimore, where Jernigan lived until recently.

“The bottom line is the more outlets you have the more problems you have, and in particular the more violent crime,” Dr. Jernigan said.

“We were taken completely by surprise when this came about,” said Robert Mellion, the executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association. “You will be potentially adding 3,100 convenience stores, 2,000 markets, and Walmarts and Targets and any other type of store that sells food on top of that to the existing 2,500 licenses.”

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No testimony was given in favor of the ballot proposal. But other opponents piled on, including substance abuse treatment professionals.

“It is our collective responsibility to protect young people from harmful substances like alcohol, nicotine and other drugs,” said Elizabeth Parsons of Mystic Valley Public Health.

Package store owners took a jab at one convenience store's British parent.

“Very simply an overseas corporation is trying to destroy the very laws and regulations that have kept this industry the way it has been since Prohibition,” said Ben Winer of Huntington Wine and Spirits.

More licenses, of course, means fewer customers for current package store owners. And their association admits that's an issue.

“The Mom and Pops are being eaten away one at a time,” said R. Ryan Maloney of Julio’s Liquors. “And this is just another way for a big corporation to come in and get as many licenses as they can.”