NATIONAL REPORT — The stroke of midnight on Jan. 1 ushered in a new year, but it also brought with it myriad of new rules that affect the convenience store industry. The changes touch all corners of an operator's business — from foodservice to tobacco to the ever-growing wage battle.
Here is a roundup of some of the changes compiled by Convenience Store News:
Another Year Brings More Minimum Wage Hikes
The federal minimum wage has been holding steady at $7.25 an hour; however, that has not stopped several states from upping the wage.
As KKTV reported, since 2009, 29 states plus Washington, D.C., set the minimum hourly wage above the $7.25 mark. Notably, 19 states saw the wage rise around the start of 2019. They are:
- Alaska ($9.89)
- Arizona ($11, new employees)
- Arkansas ($9.25)
- California ($12, more than 25 employees; $11, 25 or fewer employees)
- Colorado ($11.10)
- Delaware ($8.75)
- Florida ($8.46)
- Maine ($11)
- Massachusetts ($12)
- Minnesota ($9.86)
- Missouri ($8.60)
- Montana ($8.50)
- New Jersey ($8.85)
- New York ($11.10)
- Ohio ($8.55)
- Rhode Island ($10.50)
- South Dakota ($9.10)
- Vermont ($10.78)
- Washington ($12)
Michigan will see its base wage increase to $9.45 this spring.
It may not end there. According to NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, movements are underway in North Dakota to get a $15-an-hour minimum wage ballot question for 2020, and in Nevada to bump the minimum wage to $14 an hour.
Other key states for initiatives related to expanding Medicaid include Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi and Florida. Two dozen states let residents petition for ballot initiatives.
Full Beer Comes to Colorado C-stores
Convenience stores, gas stations and grocery stores in Colorado began adding full-strength to their alcoholic beverage offerings on Jan. 1. Prior to the new year, those outlets were limited to selling 3.2-percent beer, according to KDVR.
"It's a fabulous day," said David Coors, president of A.C. Golden Brewing Co. "Pretty remarkable if you know the history of the beer industry. Our family has been brewing beer since before Colorado was a state. And here we are now seeing another great change to legislation where consumers can find beer all around town at their local grocery stores.
"I think it benefits brewers big and small as well as consumers," he added.
State c-stores, gas stations and grocery stores are still prohibited from selling wine and hard alcohol.
Massachusetts Becomes Sixth State With Tobacco 21 Law
While Massachusetts may still be a patchwork of tobacco regulation, the new Tobacco 21 measure went statewide on Dec. 31.
In July, Gov. Charlie Baker signed the bill raising the age limit to purchase tobacco products in the state from 18 to 21. Prior to Baker's signing of the statewide measure, more than 170 Massachusetts municipalities had already raised the age limit to purchase tobacco products, as Convenience Store News previously reported.
Consumers who turned 18 before Dec. 31 can still buy tobacco products unless they are in a municipality with a local Tobacco 21 measure on the books.
The new rules also prohibit the sale of tobacco products by pharmacies and bans the use of e-cigarettes in places where state law already prohibits smoking.
Big Apple Says Goodbye to Styrofoam Packaging
New York banned single-use styrofoam products, prohibiting restaurants, stores and manufacturers from using the products to package food or fill packaging.
For now, the city will only issue warnings but it will begin fining vendors on July 1, WABC reported.
The city has been trying to ban plastic foam containers since 2013. In 2018, a judge dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking the ban.
"There is a huge amount of styrofoam that we don't need to use, that not only will end up in landfills polluting our environment, but often gets washed into our waterways," Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said.
NYC Stubs Out pharmacy Cigarette Sales
As of Jan. 1, drug stores and other stores that contain pharmacies, such as supermarkets and discounters, are prohibited from selling cigarettes and other tobacco products, reported Convenience Store News' sister publication Chain Store Age.
The bill, which was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017, was part of a package of anti-smoking bills that also raised the minimum price of cigarettes to $13 a pack, the highest in the nation. E-cigarette sales were banned in pharmacies last August.
"People trust pharmacies to help them stay well — they should be helping smokers quit, not the opposite," Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Herminia Palacio said in a statement.
About 500 pharmacies still sell tobacco products, according to the city.