Prohibition-era law might be amended to loosen restriction
DENVER — Phil Freismuth isn’t really the co-owner of Horsefly Brewing Co. in Montrose with partner Nigel Askew.
In truth, Phil’s wife, Melanie, is his boss, and will continue to be so.
That happened because Freismuth was barred from being a co-owner of the popular micro-brewery when the two opened it in 2009.
At the time, he was a full-time officer with the Montrose Police Department, and state law bars peace officers from having a liquor license in Colorado.
“I think it’s an archaic law that dates back to the Old West,” said Freismuth, who left the department after 15 years on the job. “I lost my job because of the brewery. My wife’s name is on all the paperwork, but they said I was acting as a licensee by doing things that only a licensee could do. It was a bunch of (expletive), to be honest.”
Under a bill approved in the Colorado Senate on Tuesday, Freismuth’s situation wouldn’t change, but it could for others.
The measure, SB59, would remove a decades-old law that bars anyone who is certified by the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training board from also possessing a liquor license, but only to operate establishments outside the jurisdictions that their departments serve.
The bill’s sponsor, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, believes the law stems not from the Old West but from post-Prohibition days in the early 1930s. It was intended, he thinks, to prevent officers from favoring one liquor establishment over another.
“But now we have guys who want to be volunteer POST certified to help out their sheriff, or (sheriff’s) posse, and they can’t complete the certification,” Cadman said. “So if they own a hotel or a restaurant or a grocery store they can’t help their communities.”
Not everyone in the Senate agreed.
Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, had some simple advice for any peace officer who wants to open a bar or brewery or beer hall.
“Pick a profession,” the former Grand Junction detective said. “I think it presents a number of unintended consequences and a number of ethical conflicts. Law enforcement has so much contact with liquor establishments, and this just presents a number of challenges.”
Regardless of his opposition, the bill cleared the Senate on a 33-2 vote and heads to the House for more debate.