Liquor store sales on Sundays? | AspenTimes.com

Liquor store sales on Sundays?

Janet Urquhart
Wine and other spirits are available six days a week at Local Spirits on Main Street. A proposed change in state law could permit liquor sales on Sundays. Aspen Times photo/Mark Fox.
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A move underfoot in the Colorado Legislature to allow liquor store sales on Sundays appears to have tepid support, at best, from local purveyors of wine and spirits.The bill, which is still being tweaked in an effort to garner support, would roll back a 1933 Colorado law outlawing liquor sales on Sundays, but it has run into opposition from liquor retailers around the state who don’t want to work on Sundays, if for no other reason.”Do I want to work on Sundays? No,” said Gary Plumley, who owns Of Grape and Grain on Hopkins Avenue. “You know, it’s a deal where everybody’s closed, so it’s fair.”Plumley said he doubts opening on Sundays would significantly increase his overall sales. Instead, they’d be spread out over seven days instead of six, he guessed.The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jennifer Veiga, a Denver Democrat, said she may propose narrowing the scope of the bill so that only counties with fewer than 100,000 residents and ski resorts are affected. The tourist industry in Colorado’s ski towns, in particular, may drive the demand for liquor stores to open their doors on Sundays, she said.The bill would make the matter an issue of local control, Veiga said. Local governments that want to pass laws allowing Sunday sales could do so.

“I just never quite understood why we couldn’t open up a liquor store on Sunday,” she said.There are 32 states that allow liquor sales on Sunday, including 11 that have changed their laws in the past 2 1/2 years, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, which is backing the change. The national trade group has sent a letter to liquor retailers across the state outlining its position.Bill Reilly, manager at Aspen Wine & Spirit near Clark’s Market, said the letter makes some good points, but he has mixed feelings about the idea.”I’m really back and forth,” he said.”From an employee perspective, we all love having our guaranteed Sunday off,” Reilly said. “However, probably from an owner’s perspective, to catch the tourists who come in and don’t know Colorado law, it would make sense.”There are arguments to be made both for and against the proposal, said Scott MacCracken, manager at Local Spirits on Main Street.”From a strictly personal and selfish standpoint, it’s fine with me that we’re closed on Sundays,” he said. “However, here or in any tourist area where people aren’t aware, I agree with the argument that it’s a disservice to the visitor.”

If the law is changed, MacCracken said he believes it should be applied statewide, not applied in some municipalities but not others.Tourists who are caught off guard on Sundays do have some options – restaurants and bars serve liquor on Sundays and grocery stores sell low-alcohol brews, better known as 3.2 beer.”If you need a martini, go get one,” MacCracken said. “I guess the bottom line is I just don’t see the need for it.”The state’s liquor laws caught the attention of the Aspen City Council last year, when it contemplated liquor service to tables in the center of the town’s pedestrian malls – islands unconnected to any licensed premises. The state’s open container law threw up a hurdle.Councilman Torre took up the cause of looking into what could be done to change several regulations, including the prohibition on sales on Sundays and Christmas Day, and the 2 a.m. cutoff in bars and clubs.”You have to be respectful of the social implications, but I really would love to loosen things up a bit,” he said this week.

Torre ultimately concluded coordinating a push for change from among the state’s ski towns was a daunting prospect, but he said he supports Veiga’s attempt to give local governments the authority to relax the Sunday rule.The Colorado Association of Ski Towns hasn’t taken a position on Veiga’s bill, said Jacque Whitsitt of Basalt, the organization’s spokesperson.Veiga pulled the bill from consideration by the Business, Labor and Technology Committee on Monday in order to rework the language of the legislation. If it doesn’t pass out of the committee by Feb. 17, it will die, she said.While some opponents of the measure don’t want to work on Sundays, some fear it would lead to the sale of wine and liquor by large discount supermarkets and convenience stores that are currently limited to selling low-alcohol beer. Opponents say that could put small, independent liquor stores and wine shops out of business.That, Veiga said, is a separate issue, but some local liquor store owners expressed the same fear.”I am concerned about what sort of doors would be opened up,” MacCracken said. “I’m very much opposed to opening up regular wine, beer and liquor sales at grocery stores.”The Associated Press contributed to this report. Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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