BOSTON (SHNS) – Cumberland Farms indicated Tuesday that it does not plan to revive its push for alcohol licensing changes via a 2022 ballot question and will instead direct its attention toward supporting legislation on Beacon Hill.
One day ahead of the deadline to file initiative petitions with the attorney general’s office, the leader of the company’s aborted 2020 ballot question campaign told the News Service the focus is now on a bill (H 318) that would create a new category of licenses allowing food stores to sell beer and wine.
“Liquor licensing reform remains a top policy issue for Cumberland Farms here in Massachusetts, and a lot has changed over the past two years, so the strategy has to keep evolving to meet the moment,” Matt Durand, Cumberland Farms’s head of public policy, said in a statement to the News Service. “Our efforts around the ballot initiative kicked off some really productive conversations, and we want to keep those conversations going. It’s clear we have overwhelming public support on this issue, and we’re equally gratified by the recent outreach from legislators and other interested stakeholders. So we’re going to focus on House Bill 318, respect the legislative process, and keep assessing the situation as this session unfolds.”
The campaign cleared several initial hurdles to put a question before voters in 2020 that would have created a new alcohol license type for food stores and eventually eliminated the number of alcohol sale licenses any entity could hold. In June 2020, though, Cumberland Farms dropped the effort due to the impacts of COVID-19 and said it would try again in 2022.
The Massachusetts Package Store Association, which opposed the Cumberland Farms ballot question during the 2020 campaign, recently filed its own initiative petition for the 2022 cycle. That proposal, which MPSA Executive Director Robert Mellion described as an “olive branch” to food and convenience stores like Cumberland Farms, would increase the number of licenses available to retailers while keeping a cap in place, reforming out-of-state ID use, and banning alcohol sales at self-checkouts.
Sponsors of ballot questions must file the petitions with signatures from 10 registered voters with Attorney General Maura Healey’s office by the close of business on Wednesday to remain in the running for the 2022 ballot.