Panel kills bill expanding beer sales

DENVER — Rep. Kevin Priola had hoped to help craft brewers sell more of their product.

Surely, he thought, they would be interested in expanding the number of places in the state their beer can be sold to include grocery and convenience stores.

Instead, craft brewers teamed up with liquor store owners and lobbied, heavily, against the idea, leaving the Henderson Republican with only one option when the bill was presented to the House Business & Labor Committee on Tuesday.

“I understand the locals need to say yes first to our homegrown, in-state, taxpaying, charity-giving, union-employed, neighborhood grocery stores and convenience stores,” he told the 11-member committee.

“(But) in the interest of time, and because the majority of this committee had indicated an unwillingness to move this bill forward regardless of the merit or public policy of any amendments, I would simple ask for legislative courtesy and make a motion to (kill) this bill,” he said.

Without debate or discussion, the committee did just that, killing it on a unanimous vote.

Opponents to the measure, which was a variation of several discussed in the Legislature over the past decade, said the bill would have resulted in fewer craft beer sales, not more, and eventually would have led to opening up sales of all beer and wines in grocery stores, shutting them out of the market.

Doing so would have killed jobs not only for liquor stores, but the numerous craft beer locations throughout the state, they said.

Jeanne McEvoy, executive director of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, said liquor store owners are tired of having to battle this issue year after year.

“It is clear there is no public support for changes that would kill jobs and make alcohol more accessible to minors,” she said. “Now that lawmakers have had an opportunity to consider the issue and its overwhelming opposition, our 1,600 independent businesses call on legislators in the 69th General Assembly to consider this matter settled.”

Priola, however, said they’re not seeing the bigger picture, and are basing their opinions on fear and misinformation more than on actual experience in other states that have opened up liquor sales.

“It simply amuses me that the same companies that they shut out of the market here are the same ones they currently do business with in other states,” he said. “I have visited these grocery stores in other states. They are allowed to sell all types of alcohol ... and believe it or not, there are liquor stores and specialty wine shops around these grocery stores, and they’re still in business.”



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