Fight brews over Colorado liquor sales
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER ” A fight over who can sell alcohol and when is brewing at the state Capitol.
Supermarkets want a bill allowing them to sell regular beer and wine at all their locations while some liquor stores are asking lawmakers to allow them to remain open on Sundays.
Neither bill had been introduced by Monday but both sides are looking for supporters. Liquor store owners are working to oppose the supermarket bill, which they say will hurt the independent liquor stores that have developed under the state’s liquor laws.
Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, said he and Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, were still working on a bill that would allow supermarkets to sell both regular beer and wine but not liquor. Currently, they’re only allowed to sell beer with 3.2 percent alcohol.
“I believe there is a great deal of popular support for it,” Shaffer said.
He said he only wants to include supermarkets that mainly sell food and not retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. He said one possibility is requiring that only stores that get a certain percentage of their business from food sales be allowed to sell beer and wine. He said he’s not sure if convenience stores will also be included.
Sean Duffy, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association, the supermarket trade group which asked for the bill, said the proposal could also bar those stores that don’t have pharmacies. He said the aim is to make it more convenient for busy shoppers.
“While you’re bringing dinner home you can pick up the wine that goes with it, or the beer that goes with it,” Duffy said.
Colorado liquor laws only allow companies to hold one retail liquor license, which has fostered independent liquor stores of different sizes. Supermarkets can now operate a liquor store in just one of their locations in the state.
Scott Chase, a lobbyist working for large liquor stores pushing for Sunday sales, said allowing all chain supermarkets to sell wine and beer would hurt independent liquor stores, where he said wine and beer sales usually account for between 65 and 70 percent of sales. To help shoppers, he said supermarkets could just rent space to a liquor store within their buildings, just like they do with banks and dry cleaners.
“This has nothing to do with convenience. This has everything to do with out-of-state corporations wanting more revenue at the expense of hundreds of Colorado family businesses and thousands of Colorado jobs,” Chase said.
A bill allowing liquor stores to remain open on Sunday failed three years ago in the face of opposition from small liquor stores in the Denver area. It had the support of liquor manufacturers and liquor stores in resort towns, who said they were losing business from tourists not familiar with the state’s blue laws.
This time, Chase said the supermarket bill has led more smaller liquor stores to support the Sunday sale proposal. He said they include Colorado Licensed Beverage Association and the Korean Liquor Retail Association. The national liquor manufacturers’ trade group, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, is again supporting the proposal.
Colorado is one of at least 15 states that prohibits liquor stores from being open on Sunday, according to a 2007 survey by the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association. Seven states didn’t respond to the survey. The Distilled Spirits Council has supported efforts to repeal Sunday liquor bans in 12 states in the last five years.
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