HELENA — Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow stores to sell beer and wine earlier in the morning.
The Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee hosted a hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 207, sponsored by Sen. JP Pomnichowski, a Democrat from Bozeman.
As written, the bill would exempt grocery stores and convenience stores from a law prohibiting the sale of beer and wine between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. However, Pomnichowski said she had already asked for an amendment that would only allow sales to start at 6 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.
The change would not apply to bars and restaurants, nor the sale of hard liquor.
Pomnichowski said SB 207 would benefit people heading out early in the morning for hunting, fishing, or other outdoor activities.
“They stop to buy their bags of ice and sandwiches and soda and beer so they can stock a cooler – but they can’t buy the beer,” she said.
She also noted that some stores have set up early shopping hours for seniors and others with health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, those hours end before 8 a.m.
Several organizations, including the Montana Tavern Association and the Montana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, said they opposed the bill as originally written because they supported ending alcohol sales at 2 a.m. and didn’t want people to leave bars and go directly to a store to purchase more. They said they haven’t taken a position on the bill if it’s amended.
Pomnichowski said she had heard those concerns, and that was why she proposed her amendment.
“I recognize that we don’t want people leaving the bars at 2 a.m. and then going immediately to buy more beer and wine, so it’s fine to leave the restriction of sales between 2 and 6,” she said.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.