Bill allowing stores to sell full-strength beer goes flat

DENVER — With only a handful of lawmakers in support of it, a bill that would have allowed grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer fizzled in the Colorado House on Monday.

After nearly three hours of debate on the floor of the House, a clear majority of lawmakers stood against the measure after its sponsor tried everything he could think of to get it approved.

Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, said the measure would have created jobs in grocery and convenience stores without hurting the state’s liquor stores.

Liston said the issue was a question of allowing the free market to dictate liquor sales.

“The myth that somehow allowing a little bit of competition is going to kill jobs in the liquor stores is just flat out not true,” he said. “It’s a myth that’s been propagated by liquor stores who just don’t want competition, and I don’t blame them. They’ve had a statutory, regulated monopoly for 78 years.”

But opponents said the opposite was more likely true, saying it would lead to the closure of several liquor stores.

They said the measure would benefit chain stores that are based out of state, and hurt locally owned mom-and-pop stores around Colorado.

“If we were going to sign up for this free-market philosophy totally, we would allow sales of alcoholic beverages of any kind anywhere,” said Rep. Roger Wilson, D-Glenwood Springs. “We control alcohol in this state for good reason, and we control where it’s sold. Liquor stores are one of the most guarded areas there are as to who’s in the store and who can buy alcohol.”

Not so when it comes to groceries and convenience stores, he said.

In the end, only 19 representatives supported the idea, with the rest of the 65-member House opposing it.

Rep. Laura Bradford, who was running floor proceedings at the time, was one of them, but her support of the idea over the past three sessions has been hard to track.

The Collbran Republican supported Liston’s bill last year, which would have extended full-strength beer sales only to convenience stores. At the same time, however, Bradford voted against a bill sponsored by a Democrat that would have allowed groceries to sell beer.

That was a reversal of her stance during the 2009 session, when Bradford opposed a bill that would have allowed convenience stores to sell full-strength beer. That measure was not sponsored by Liston, but by the same Democrat who sponsored last year’s grocery store measure, former Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West.

Seeing that he didn’t have enough votes to pass it, Liston made a last-ditch effort to win supporters by trying to refer it to the ballot as a referendum. But instead of gaining support, he angered his supporters.

As a result, that effort, too, failed.


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