NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

August 12, 2010

Tax holiday not enough, say some liquor stores

In the past, tax-free weekends like the one the state is planning for this weekend have given merchants across the commonwealth something to smile about.

But this year, not all merchants are smiling. Liquor store owners, who stand to benefit from the two-day tax holiday for the first time since the state started applying the sales tax to liquor last July, say the weekend won't come close to making up for the 10 to 40 percent decline in sales they have endured in the past year.

Those owners are still smarting at the mass exodus of customers who decided to drive a few more miles up the highway to tax-free New Hampshire rather than fork over an additional 6.25 percent for beer, wine and liquor.

While they hope the tax-free holiday brings a few of those customers back to support local businesses for the weekend, they contend the only way to put their businesses back in the black is to repeal the tax.

When asked if he felt this weekend's tax-free event would be a boon for business, Todd Baltich of Leary's Fine Wine and Liquors in downtown Newburyport was nonplussed.

"I think what will be a boon for business is when in November people go to the ballot and repeal the state liquor tax law," said Baltich, who acknowledged a significant drop in business from the year-old law.

While he and others appreciate the sentiment of a weekend off from the bleeding, he and others are more focused on the bigger picture and getting that law repealed.

"Liquor is already taxed about 40 percent," Baltich said. "It's taxed at the wholesale level. If I buy a bottle of wine from a wholesaler, it's already taxed, and the state has gotten their money from the wholesaler. It's a tax on a tax — a sales tax on an excise tax."

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