Tempers flare over latest effort to expand liquor sales in Colorado | AspenTimes.com

Tempers flare over latest effort to expand liquor sales in Colorado

Lawmakers in both parties say legislation moving too fast, too late in session

Brian Eason
The Denver Post
Denver Post file photo
LITTLETON, CO - OCTOBER 20: Peter Stucz shops the Colorado craft beer section at his local Safeway. Colorado state law allows one store per chain to sell 3.5% beer, wine and spirits, but alcohol companies are fighting to get their products on the shelves of every store. Safeway at South Broadway and Mineral in Littleton on Tuesday, October 20, 2015. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Colorado lawmakers are mounting a last-ditch effort to loosen the state’s restrictions on alcohol sales, arguing that customers are not seeing benefits from last year’s attempt to shake up the market for booze.

Introduced with just a week left in the legislative session, the measure would revisit last year’s massive overhaul of the state’s alcohol laws just months after its provisions began to take effect.

It would allow liquor stores to expand to up to nine locations over 10 years. Under the law passed last year, they are allowed to operate a total of four locations by that year, starting with one new location this year. The proposal also would clarify that Walmart and Target can obtain up to 20 liquor licenses each over a 20-year period. That would put the big-box giants on a level playing field with grocery chains that won similar allowances in last year’s hotly debated measure.

On Wednesday, the measure narrowly passed out of the House Finance Committee, 7-6, over deep reservations of lawmakers in both parties who said the legislation was moving too quickly and too late in the legislative session.

Alcohol-related bills are always among the most contentious and heavily lobbied at the Colorado statehouse. And, in an unusual wrinkle, this year’s debate has split the state’s powerful liquor lobby, exposing the competing motivations of large outfits such as Applejack Wine and Spirits in Wheat Ridge that may want to expand, and owners of smaller shops who fear that allowing liquor stores to expand will drive Colorado’s mom-and-pop stores out of business.

For more on this story, go to The Denver Post.