Weld Proposes Alcohol Reform

ELECTION '96

Following his State of the State address last week, Governor William F. Weld '66 announced a proposal which could make liquor less expensive and more widely available in the Commonwealth.

Weld's plan, which would gut the current state laws governing the sale and regulation of alcohol, has a potentially large effect on Massachusetts' student population and is also expected to go over well with blue-collar Democratic voters in Weld's upcoming senatorial race against incumbent John F. Kerry (D-Mass).

If adopted by the state legislature, the plan would abolish a cap limiting the number of liquor licenses a chain store may have, thus removing restrictions on the number of retail outlets across the state that are allowed to sell alcohol.

Currently, Massachusetts law limits chain stores like Christie's, 7-Eleven and Lil' Peach to a total of three liquor licenses, meaning that only three retail stores in the chain may sell alcohol. Supermarkets such as Star Market and Stop and Shop are also held to the three-store limit.

The plan would also abolish the Massachusetts law which currently provides for the "three-tier system," a series of regulations requiring retail stores, bars and restaurants to buy alcohol from wholesalers rather than buying directly from suppliers.

The wholesalers are required to publish their prices monthly, and are subsequently permitted to meet, but not beat, those of their competitors.

Critics, including Weld, claim that the system encourages artificially inflated alcohol prices and discourages healthy competition in the industry.

In a state with a large college population, changes in alcohol availability will be immediately apparent near many University campuses where chain stores were previously unable to sell alcohol.

However, although Boston University, Boston College and MIT students may soon have greater access to Lil' Peach, 7-Eleven and Stop and Shop stores with new alcohol supplies, Harvard students are unlikely to experience similar effects.

Store 24, which is located on Mass. Ave. directly across from Harvard Yard, has no plans to introduce alco- hol despite Weld's proposal, according to one employee.

"Store 24s don't carry alcohol," the employee said, adding that the chain has no plans to introduce liquor in the future.

Christie's, located on the corner of JFK St. and Mt. Auburn St., is already one of the chain's three carriers of alcohol.

Even if the Christie's stores ultimately did decide to take advantage of the change in license numbers, its Harvard Square outlet will remain unchanged.

The Star Market stores near Harvard face similar situations.

The Mt. Auburn St. store behind the Divinity School already sells alcohol, and while the chain may add alcohol at other locations if Weld's plan is accepted, the Porter Square store will not be one of them.

"We have a few sites that we would probably add liquor to," said the manager of the Porter Square Star Market, who declined to give his name during an interview. "But the Porter Square store would not add liquor because of a lack of space and the existence of a small liquor store in the Porter Square mall next door."

Those living in the University and in Harvard Square will probably only experience the effects of Weld's plan if Square stores are able to lower their liquor prices and pass those savings on to their customers.

Despite the prospect of lower alcohol prices, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, who has renewed University efforts this year to enforce the legal drinking age and reduce student alcohol abuse, said that he doesn't believe the changes will have an effect on student drinking abuses.

"I would say that as a general principle, concerned as I am about alcohol abuse by students, I would not think that artificially inflated prices or restrictions on the number of retail outlets are the right kinds of tools with which to prevent dangerous binge drinking," Lewis said this week.

"If an argument is being made that eliminating such measures will increase alcohol abuse among college students, I would want to see some data from other states that would bear that out," the dean added.

Election

The alcohol proposal is one move Weld has made in order to attract the moderate Democrat vote in his upcoming Senatorial race against Kerry.

Weld, who has often been described as a socially liberal but fiscally conservative Republican, is expected by many pundits to base his senatorial campaign on promoting economic policies attractive to the middle class, in addition to social policies like the alcohol reform, which are attractive to working class and moderate Democratic groups.Crimson File PhotoThe new alcohol proposals of Gov. WILLIAM F. WELD '66 are designed to attract working class and moderate Democrat vote in his upcoming senatorial race against incumbent JOHN F. KERRY (D-Mass.).