Liquor store managers want to keep more potent beer off grocery shelves
Two Grand Junction liquor store managers plan to traverse the mountains this week to rail against a bill that could allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer.
Brandi Fisher, co-owner of Fisher’s Liquor Barn, 2438 F Road, said the proposal, House Bill 1192, could cost Colorado jobs and put small businesses at risk of closure.
House Bill 1192 is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday afternoon before the House Business and Labor Affairs Committee.
Grocery stores are limited to selling less potent, 3.2 percent beer.
“We employ an average of 25 people, and if we’re going to be doing a lot less business because the grocery stores have it, we’re going to have to lay people off, and a lot of other stores will have to do the same,” Fisher said.
Monty Haltiner, manager of Crossroads Wine and Spirits, 2546 Rimrock Ave., plans to tell the committee that killing the bill is a “common-sense” plan.
He said many liquor stores, such as his, are near grocery stores to provide a convenience to shoppers, not to hurt the grocery stores’ sales.
“Does Wal-Mart really think my little 6,000-square-foot store is going to put them out of business?” Haltiner said.
State Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, defended her bill as a way to create equity between liquor stores and grocery stores in the wake of the 2008 law allowing liquor stores to be open on Sundays.
State lawmakers agreed last year to allow Colorado liquor stores to open on Sundays. At the same time, the Legislature declined to pass legislation aimed at expanding the types of beer, wine and liquor that grocery stores can sell.
“I don’t support the concept of government dictating one type of business can sell one product, and we restrict the other business to sell a less competitive product,” McFadyen said.
However, it was concerns like those of Haltiner and Fisher that convinced a Senate committee to kill the 2008 bill that would have allowed expanded alcohol sales in grocery stores. Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, was among those who voted to kill that bill.
Rep. Laura Bradford, R-Collbran, who sits on the committee slated to hear the bill, said she plans to vote against it.
“This bill, unfortunately, asks for winners and losers,” Bradford said. “I’m a free-market person. At the end of the day, I am probably … going to vote with the independent liquor store owners.”
Bradford said she would like to see the bill amended to allow independent convenience stores to sell some full-strength beer.