State reps give OK to mid-size grocery stores opening on holidays

By Stephen Betts | May 08, 2017

Augusta — Local representatives were divided on a bill that would allow some larger grocery stores to open on Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

The Maine House approved LD 488 May 2.

Currently, grocery stores larger than 5,000 square feet must be closed on those three holidays. The bill would allow stores up to 10,000 square feet to remain open on those days.

On May 2, the House rejected by 79-66 a motion to accept the ought-not-to-pass recommendation of the minority report of the Legislature's Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee. The House then voted, without a rollcall, to pass the bill.

The state Senate has yet to vote on the measure.

Democratic Reps. Pinny Beebe-Center of Rockland and Walter Kumiega III of Deer Isle voted to accept the ought-not-to-pass report. Democratic Rep. John Spear of South Thomaston, independent Owen Casas of Rockport, and Republicans Paula Sutton of Warren and Abden Simmons of Waldoboro voted against the minority report.

Casas said he supported the proposed bill because it gives municipalities the final say on whether larger stores in their communities will be allowed to open on the three holidays.

Spear said he supported the bill because it allows the communities to decide. He also said that pharmacies such as Rite Aid can be open on holidays, and they also sell food items. He said in rural areas, people have to drive long distances to find a store open.

Sutton also voiced support for the bill.

"Grocery stores should be open when they wish to be. Free market and demand and supply.  Who is government to limit their activity on certain days, when other stores like Rite Aid and McDonald's can be open? We need to support local business and keep them strong and level the playing field. If I want to buy tinfoil or butter on Thanksgiving, I would rather put money in the pocket of my local grocer than a national franchise," Sutton said

Beebe-Center said it is good to have some guaranteed time off for workers, particularly to spend with family and friends and possibly take part in religious observances.

"I believe that grocery stores sell all they can before the holidays with everyone going and buying knowing that they will be closed on the holidays," Beebe-Center said.

The largest supermarkets over 10,000 square feet would still be prohibited from opening on those three holidays.

Rep. James Gillway, R-Searsport, sponsored the bill, which would allow Tozier's Family Market in that town to open, along with other mid-size markets in Maine.

Comments (4)
Posted by: Harry Fitzgerald | May 09, 2017 09:42

Allowing these stores to open on these 3 holidays also means that employees will have to work them. Having the stores closed guarantees that all employees will be home with family on these holidays instead of working. There are some places that must be open and staffed, but grocery stores are not among them. Get your stick of butter the day before, borrow from a neighbor or do without, and keep these stores closed for these three important days of the year, giving employees these days off.

Nancy Fitzgerald



Posted by: paula sutton | May 09, 2017 06:48

Thanks for accurately quoting my reply, appreciate it.



Posted by: Stephen Betts | May 08, 2017 21:47

Not sure. The sponsor was from Searsport which has a store in that 5,000 to 10,000-square-foot range.



Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | May 08, 2017 21:39

Steve:

Which stores, if any, would this bill affect in our area?



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