Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Here we go again with Colorado beer laws

Colorado Beer LawsColoradoans obviously want choice. Choices like: what day they buy their liquor, where they buy their beer, and how much alcohol content is in their beer. For some Colorado legislators, keeping up with these choices seem to be a non-stop issue.

Law makers in Colorado have been busy for years looking at bills to alter the liquor laws of this state. Last year in 2008, the issue was Sunday liquor sales. This year, the issue seems to be whether or not to allow full strength beer and wine to be sold in Colorado grocery and convenience stores.

Didn't we just kill this bill?

A recent bill, House Bill 1192, was defeated in Colorado back in March 2009 that would have allowed grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer. Apparently a large opposition of Colorado craft brewers and liquor store owners helped stomp this bill.

Now, a new measure has popped up with a similar theme, Initiative 29, that largely copies a 2008 legislative proposal that was killed in committee. Under this initiative, grocery stores and convenience stores could set aside 5 percent of shelf space for sales of full-strength beer and wine.

But what about liquor store owners and craft brewers?

In an effort to calm the concerns of liquor store owners, they would be able to sell non-perishable food items on 5 percent of their shelf space under the initiative.

The initiative also requires at least 20 percent of space reserved for alcohol in grocery and convenience stores be set aside for craft beers and boutique wines. This was added to address some of the issues that Colorado craft brewers had.

According to a recent Denver Business Journal poll, nearly 8 out of 10 people out of 1100+ responders stated that they would favor allowing full strength beer to be sold in grocery stores.

If legislators can't come up with a decision on this issue then it may go directly to the Colorado voters next year.

So is this really a big deal?

Many other states already allow full strength beer and wine to be sold in grocery stores. So why should it be an issue here? For one, Colorado is one of the biggest beer making states in the nation with over 100 independent businesses making craft beer and protecting this billion+ dollar industry and maintaining consumer's choice in beer is of utmost importance.

This issue is likely to drag on well into 2010. Fermentedly Challenged will be sure to follow all the latest news regarding this issue.

What do you readers think?

Is it about time that Colorado allow full strength beer sales in these stores? Do you think it will make it any easier for minors to illegally obtain alcohol? Do you believe this would hurt local craft breweries and liquor stores?

My take on the issue:

I feel the lines between the small mom-and-pop liquor stores and grocery stores have already been drawn a long time ago. Certainly sales will be affected at local liquor stores but I believe craft beer buyers will still choose to head to a liquor store to get a much better selection in craft beer. I just don't believe chain stores will stock a good selection of craft beer. At least liquor stores would be able to start selling a small amount of cheese, chips and other food.

If anything, grocery store sales could help boost beer sales, not limit them. Sure, the big chain stores might not have the same taste in beer selection that liquor stores have, but if they do happen to have a 6-pack of the craft beer I'm looking for then ya, I might buy it there.

But chances are, the small space that would be reserved for local craft beer will be generally limited. The big macro beer companies are probably chomping at the bit to get this bill passed. It'll definitely mean more sales for BudMillerCoors type beers.

3.2 beer will finally go away for good in Colorado. Not that I ever cared about 3.2 beer before. It's just that when people buy a macro beer, it will be full strength swill instead of near-water swill that it used to be. I'm sure that will make Mothers Against Drunk Drivers more unhappy.

December 2012 Update: While similar bills have failed four previous times, Colorado is once again attempting to change the law in early 2013. Read about the latest attempt here.

Source articles:
- Liquor stores, grocers set to clash again over liquor.
- Grocery sales of most wine, beer are inevitable.
- Grocers' sale of wine, beer still unresolved.
- Ballot measure would let Colorado groceries sell wine, full-strength beer.
- DBJ Business Pulse: 8 in 10 readers favor booze sales in groceries.
- Proposal to sell stronger beer likely to have rivals.
- Colorado’s craft brewers wield clout in Legislature.
- Ballot initiative submitted to allow beer, wine sales in grocery stores.
- Sunday liquor sales legalized in Colorado. (April 2008)

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