Attorney General: Mr. William W. Sullivan, Department of Liquor Control, 1995-018 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

June 7, 1995

Mr. William W. Sullivan
Chairman
Department of Liquor Control
State Office Building
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Mr. Sullivan:

This is in response to your request for an opinion on whether the Department of Liquor Control is authorized to issue a package store permit in the Town of Bozrah under the package store ratio law, Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-14a. The facts, which you supply, are that Bozrah currently has no package store, that the town has a population of less than 2,500 persons, and that the Department is uncertain as to whether a permit can be issued under the ratio law. The law provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Commencing June 8, 1986, the department of liquor control may issue one package store permit for every twenty-five hundred residents of a town as determined by the most recently completed decennial census.

Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-14a.

For the following reasons, we believe that the Department is authorized to issue a permit in Bozrah, even though its population is less than 2,500.

The package store ratio law, as originally enacted in 1981, imposed a five year moratorium on the issuance of package store permits and, thereafter, limited the issuance of new permits to "one for every twenty-five hundred residents of a town." 1981 Conn. Pub. Acts No. 81-294, Sec. 5.1 Your instant question was posed in 1987, but was later withdrawn. See 87 Conn. Op. Atty. Gen. 239, 241 n.1 (1987). In response to another question asked then, we did conclude that when considering the issuance of additional permits, there must be an increase in population of a full 2,500 residents, and not a fraction thereof. Id. at 241.

The question of whether any permit can be issued in a town, as distinguished from the question of how many additional permits can issue, has long been the province of the local option right, and that law, we believe is the dispositive body of law in the instant case. The local option laws are codified in Part III of the Liquor Control Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-9 through 30-13b. These rules provide a detailed procedure on when and how a town may vote to allow or prohibit liquor premises. The statutes, in pertinent part, provide:

The sale of alcoholic liquor under the provisions of this chapter shall be permitted in any town in the state until by vote of the town ... a contrary preference has been indicated ....

Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-9.

Under the local option laws, it has long been held that liquor sales cannot be prohibited in a town except by local option vote. Dupont v. Liquor Control Commission, 136 Conn. 286, 292, 71 A.2d 84 (1942). That this option cannot be abrogated under the guise of an exercise of another power, such as zoning, is also clear. See, e.g., State ex rel. Haverback v. Thompson, 134 Conn. 288, 292, 56 A.2d 645 (1948). The local option laws provide a measure of "home rule" to municipalities. Thus, it has been held:

The act [Liquor Control Act] endows the liquor control commission with broad powers as to permits and regulations and prescribes penalties for violations. While these provisions are statewide in their application, they are subject to specially defined local option powers granted to all of the 169 towns in the state. These powers were apparently conferred in recognition of the traditional independence of the towns and are obviously calculated to afford, for each, home rule as to the liquor business within its own borders to the extent prescribed.

Bania v. New Hartford, 138 Conn. 172, 177, 83 A.2d 165 (1951).

Your office reports no record of Bozrah voting to ban package stores. Absent such a vote, the sale of liquor under a package store permit is allowed by the local option laws. Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-9. There is nothing in the language2 or history3 of the package store ratio law to suggest that the legislature intended to eliminate local option rights.

Under the rules of statutory construction, we must endeavor to give effect to both the option law and the ratio law. "[S]tatutes should be construed so that no part of a legislative enactment is to be treated as insignificant and unnecessary ...." Charlton Press, Inc. v. Sullivan, 153 Conn. 103, 109, 214 A.2d 354 (1965). If we can, by any fair interpretation, find a reasonable field of operation for both statutes without destroying or perverting their evident meaning and intent, it is our duty to do so, thus reconciling them and according them concurrent effect. Daley v. Liquor Control Commission, 166 Conn. 96, 100, 347 A.2d 69 (1974); see also, The State v. Faro, 118 Conn. 267, 272-73, 171 A. 660 (1934). Both statutes can be given effect by recognizing that the local option law authorizes the Department to issue a package store permit in Bozrah, thereafter the number allowed is prescribed by the ratio law.

For all the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the package store ratio law does not prohibit the issuance of a package store permit in the Town of Bozrah, even though it has a population of less than 2,500 persons.

Very truly yours,

Richard Blumenthal
Attorney General

Robert F. Vacchelli
Assistant Attorney General

RB/RFV/td


1 This Public Act provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

Sec. 5. (NEW) The department of liquor control shall not issue any package store permit for a period of five years from the effective date of this act but may renew any such permit issued prior to such date. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any permit for which application was made to the department prior to the effective date of this act. A package store permit may be renewed by the person to whom it was issued or by any person who is a transferee or purchaser of premises operating under a package store permit and who meets the requirements of chapter 545 of the general statutes concerning eligibility for a liquor permit. Commencing five years after the effective date of this act, the department may issue one such permit for every twenty-five hundred residents of a town as determined by the most recently completed decennial census.

2 Certain local option rights have been limited by the legislature and, in those instances, the exception is clear. See, e.g., Conn. Gen. Stat. 30-13a ("... such action [local option vote] shall not apply to the sale of alcoholic liquor under a golf country club permit ...").

3 The legislature added the ratio rule, and other measures, to counterbalance the impact of the elimination of the liquor price minimum markup law, which also passed in 1981. See Remarks of Rep. Carragher, 24 H.Proc., 1981 Sess. Pt. 17 at 5716-17).


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