Grocers try again for full-strength sales

DENVER — The two measures introduced into the Colorado Legislature on Tuesday to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer already have liquor store owners scrambling to defeat them.

Brandi Fisher-Pollock, owner of Fisher’s Liquor Barn, 2438 F Road in Grand Junction, said the main argument against the idea is the same as it was the last three years it has been defeated: Loosening beer sales in convenience stores and groceries would result in fewer selections for consumers and the closing of many liquor stores around the state.

She said the state’s craft breweries would suffer because the convenience stores and groceries likely would not devote as much space to anything but the mass-marketed beer brands, such as Budweiser and Coors.

“Colorado has one of the largest populations of craft brewers in the United States, and we’re able as a liquor store to offer so many different types of beers because of them,” Fisher-Pollock said. “If grocery stores took it over, these craft breweries couldn’t make it because the grocery stores are going to choose the top brands and leave the craft brewers aside.”

But Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, said just the opposite would happen.

He said grocery stores vowed they will sell more than just the big-name brands and that liquor stores would still be around to offer what grocers don’t.

“Competition is good for everyone, including the consumers,” Liston said. “Grocery stores and convenience stores openly have said that they want to sell the Colorado craft beers. It’s ironic that you can go to any other state around Colorado and buy our craft beers in groceries stores, but you can’t do it in Colorado.”

Liston said he would be willing to give liquor stores something in the deal, too, by allowing them to sell limited food items, such as chips and other munchies.

He also said he drafted the measure to make it effective July 1, 2012, because he wanted to give liquor stores more than a year to prepare for the change in business.

A second bill introduced in the Senate would extend full-strength beer sales to convenience stores but not grocery stores. Neither measure has been scheduled yet for a committee hearing.

Jeanne McEvoy, president of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, said the measures not only would kill jobs in the state at a time when it can least afford losing them, but also allow minors to get their hands on alcohol more easily.

Meanwhile, several state lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle are lining up against the two measures, calling them job-killers.

“These are the only bills in the Legislature that are sure to kill jobs and force dozens of local Colorado businesses to close,” said Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton. “The last thing we should be doing in a recession is pushing bills we know will hurt Colorado businesses and send money off to out-of-state special interests.”


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