Big-box liquor would hinder local business, hurt buyers

As the holiday season peaks, party-goers and givers are flocking to local liquor stores, stocking up for the coming festivities.

But there’s a Grinch at work in supply side of this chain, and it may create a big change in how you buy alcohol.

Grocery store chains again are scrambling for the ability to sell fullstrength beer, wine and other spirits, something currently reserved under state law for liquor stores (which aren’t allowed to sell food).

Proponents pat legislators on the back while spouting blather like “produce jobs,” “increase consumer choices,” “lower prices” and “economic development.”

Sounds good on the surface but this argument has more holes than a doughnut shop.

It’s hard to see how competition, and the benefits from competition, will survive if the mega-corporations win.

If grocery stores get beer, wine and spirits, many of the state’s small liquor stores, already operating on a tight margin, will disappear, along with the jobs they provide and taxes they pay.

Fewer competitors won’t mean lower prices or better selection. Have you been into a state-owned liquor store in Utah?

The wine/liquor selection is limited because every store sells only what someone in the state office mandates.

Want something different than what’s on the shelves? Drive to Colorado, something Utahns already do.

Ever notice how grocery stores push their private labels and limit your choice of national brands?

Maybe someday you’ll buy Kroger- label wine (Trader Joe’s does this).

One argument for booze in the grocery store says liquor stores have a monopoly that needs breaking. Huh? Walk into any liquor store in town and you’ll find them competing, hard, against the other guys.

Do you seriously think one City Market will compete, i.e., have lower prices, than the others?

If and when Safeway, WalMart or City Market/Kroger begin selling adult beverages, the only person with a choice will be the company buyer in Denver, Sacramento or wherever the chain’s headquarters are located.

That buyer, and buyers from other chains, will sit down with a national liquor distributor and decide between them what the entire chain will offer.

Did you say collusion? You said it, not me.

Walk into most Grand Junction liquor stores and someone’s there to help you find the right wine, beer or spirit. It may be a distributor’s rep making his/her rounds or a store employee who knows what is on the shelves and what you like to drink.

Ask for help choosing a wine in a grocery store and maybe you’ll get a produce clerk, onion in hand. It’s not fair to either person, but at that moment, he or she is your only hope.

Local liquor stores mean your money stays in the community instead of disappearing into the pockets of far-distant corporate stockholders who don’t care if your community loses jobs.

In Grand Junction, the bigger liquor stores — Fisher’s Liquor Barn, Andy’s Liquors, it’s a short list — may survive by cutting costs (that means jobs) and capitalizing on customer service, something large-chain grocery/liquor stores can’t provide.

But look at it this way.

I’m sure Little Sammy will be happy to run across town to the mega-box grocery store for bread, milk and a pint of Jack.

It gives him one more chance to try that fake ID, the one that’s been refused by every liquor store in town.

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GETTING IT RIGHT: The Dec. 9 Wine Openers column incorrectly estimated Talbott Farms’ wine-grape harvest. The column should have said, “Bruce Talbott of Talbott Farms in Palisade, who farms about 160 acres of grapes, including about 130 acres of Vinifera and about 30 acres of cold-hardy hybrids, is the state’s largest winegrape producer.

He said this year’s crop came in well over early estimates.


COMMENTS

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Lot of false representation here. In Arizona beer is continueously on sale and the pricing is much cheaper than Colorado. There are wine and beer stores which sell at the same prices as the grocers so to say this is absolutely false… Quit crying liquor stores, the days of overcharging customers for alcohol are hopefully gonna be over soon so suck it up!!!

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