Proposals loosen up liquor business

DENVER — Grand Junction liquor store owner Brandi Fisher—Pollock isn’t at all happy with two bills that could take sales away from her and others in the liquor business.

Under two measures working their way through the Colorado Legislature, convenience stores would be able to sell full-strength beer, and grocers could buy out nearby liquor outlets.

Though Fisher-Pollock said the bills are better than an unrestricted opening of all liquor sales for convenience and grocery stores, she still is actively opposing them and letting others in the business know they should, too.

“If they’re going to do a law trying to restrict the saturation of liquor licenses, they need to do a lot more than that,” said Fisher-Pollock, who’s been meeting with other liquor store owners in Grand Junction about the bills.

“They need to restrict the square footage, too. With the C-store and the G-store bills, they’re going to allow people who are 18 years of age to sell alcohol, and it wouldn’t be supervised. That raises a huge problem.”

The convenience store bill, which is to be heard in the House Business Affairs & Labor Committee on Wednesday, is limited only to full-strength beer, because those store owners have no interest in selling other spirits, said Rep. Larry Liston, the sponsor of House Bill 1186.

The Colorado Springs Republican said the measure would benefit liquor stores, because it also would allow them to sell nonperishable items, such as chips and pretzels.

“Clearly, the convenience stores were thrown under the bus when we went to Sunday sales,” Liston said. “This is only going to allow them to sell one product, full-strength beer. They already sell 3.2 beer, which nobody wants.

“The liquor stores, they’ve got a monopoly that they don’t want to admit. Whether they like it or not, there’s going to be some changes. If this goes to a citizens’ referendum, then it’s out of control. It could be anything, and the liquor stores really won’t like it.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, has introduced a measure that would allow grocery stores to buy liquor licenses from existing stores that are within 1,000 feet.

By law, grocery store chains are allowed to possess only one liquor license each in the entire state, most of which are located in the Denver metropolitan area.

McFadyen said her bill, which has not yet been issued a number, would allow grocery stores to sell wine and beer, and it would allay some fears liquor stores have about competition.

She said if a store owner refuses to sell, the grocery store could not get a liquor license elsewhere.

“There are safeguards for liquor stores who don’t want to sell, and it also would give the opportunity for businesses within that 1,000 feet to negotiate a profitable sale,” McFadyen said. “This bill and Liston’s measure really should settle this issue for a while. If they pass, you won’t see any language on the ballot.”

Denver lawyer Blake Harrison already has approval for such an initiative, but said he’ll hold off getting the 76,000 signatures he needs to get it on the ballot until the Legislature opens up alcohol sales.

Fisher-Pollock said neither option is good, particularly if people want to keep jobs in the state.

She said if grocery and convenience stores get the right to sell alcohol, they likely wouldn’t hire additional workers. At the same time, the state would see liquor stores forced to cut jobs, with some going out of business, she said.

For Grand Junction, the 500 people who work at the 42 liquor stores in the city would be affected, she said.

“I was looking at another state that did this, and 35 percent of liquor stores went out of businesses within two years of that happening,” Fisher-Pollock said. “That’s a lot of job loss, a lot of rentals on the market. It’s just going to hurt in so many different ways. It’s scary to think about.”


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