Cumberland Farms Strives to Lift Cap on Liquor Licenses

The c-store chain filed a ballot question in Massachusetts to expand alcohol licenses.

August 19, 2019

BOSTON—Leading the charge for c-stores statewide, Cumberland Farms has filed a ballot question with the Massachusetts state attorney general’s office that would lift the state restrictions on the number of alcohol licenses a food retailer can have.

This isn’t a new topic. In 2006, supermarket chains wanted to lift the caps, but package stores won, persuading voters to keep a three-store maximum rule in place. It turned out to be a fight worth $12 million for both sides—and according to the Boston Globe—folks thought the ballot war was over. But supermarkets brought it back up in 2011.

C-stores weren’t part of that 2011 deal that increased the number of alcohol sales licenses per retailer from three to nine. So now, they’re out to get their own.

The Boston Globe reports that the proposal by Cumberland Farms would lift the caps on traditional off-premise sales licenses over time, until they are eliminated entirely in 2024. It would also establish a new kind of “food store” license for beer and wine, to be doled out at the municipal level. The ballot question would also establish more rules for age verification at the checkout counter.

Cumberland Farms currently has more than 200 stores in Massachusetts. Only seven of those can sell alcohol, but that should increase to nine soon given the 2011 change—all while it’s in the process of being bought out by U.K.-based EG Group.