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Sunday liquor sales get mixed reaction

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” Aspenites can get that Sunday hair of the dog if Gov. Bill Ritter signs legislation allowing liquor stores to stay open seven days per week.

Aspen liquor store managers, however, aren’t all gung-ho about opening on Sunday, a day when liquor store owners and employees could normally rest.

By a vote of 24 to 9 on Thursday, the Colorado Senate passed a bill, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Veiga and Rep. Cheri Jahn, that would repeal Prohibition-era legislation banning the Sunday sale of alcohol.



The bill passed in the Colorado House of Representatives earlier this week.

If Ritter signs it, which could occur as early next week, the Sunday opening would go into effect on July 1.




Repealing outdated “blue laws” is a nationwide trend, and Colorado would be the 13th state since 2002 to open up to Sunday sales, according to Ben Jenkins, communications director with the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., a trade association representing spirits manufactures and some store owners.

“Without a doubt, this benefits the small business owner,” Jenkins said.

But not all local liquor store staff are convinced.

Scott MacCracken, manager of Local Spirits in Aspen, said that while the Sunday opening would serve resort guests arriving on Saturday evening, he’s not sure the expense is worth it.

“I’ve always recognized that that is a disservice to our visitors,” MacCracken said of being closed on Sundays, and he remembers a client’s recent complaint about making Bloody Marys with bourbon for Sunday brunch because the liquor stores were closed.

But a Sunday opening would be a “trade-off,” MacCracken said, and though it would benefit the customers, it could mean more hassle and expense for local liquor stores. While he’ll likely stay open to keep up with competitors, a move that will require additional staff, MacCracken said it’s still up in the air what his Sunday hours could be.

“We enjoy having the Sunday off,” said Roger Carlsen, manager of the Grog Shop near City Market in Aspen.

Despite losing a day off, however, Carlsen said he thinks the change is good for the customer and good for business.

A few employees might gripe about missing Sunday football on television, but Carlsen plans to open on Sundays if the legislation passes.

Gary Plumley, a co-owner at Of Grape and Grain in Aspen, said he doesn’t like the proposed Sunday opening.

“We like our day off,” Plumley said.

Of Grape and Grain is run as a cooperative, and any decision to extend store hours would be up to the four owners, Plumley said.

“I don’t know if it would simply spread the business out over more days and actually cost money,” Plumley said

Plumley doesn’t hear many complaints from customers about liquor stores being closed on Sunday, he said, and locals and visitors alike are used to the Sunday closing.

State legislators recently shot down a separate bill calling for regular beer and wine sales at grocery stores (grocery stores in Colorado currently sell only sell beer with 3.2 percent alcohol), Jenkins said.

And while officials at the Distilled Spirits Council don’t support beer sales at grocery stores ” a move that would hurt the independent stores ” Jenkins said lifting the Sunday ban was a move to satisfy customers on the second-busiest shopping day of the week.

If results from other states are an indicator, Jenkins said the Sunday opening could bolster statewide liquor sales by as much as 8 percent and boost state booze revenues by $23 to $32 million, generating from $1.8 to $2.6 million in sales tax revenues.

cagar@aspentimes.com