October 2015 Your Choice Colorado, or YCC, launched an official awareness campaign highlighting Colorado’s supposed “outdated” liquor law. Their goal as an organization is to inform Coloradans of current Colorado liquor law and create support for a 2016 ballot initiative. This initiative aims to uproot portions of Colorado’s prohibition-era laws, allowing for full-strength beer and wine sales in Colorado grocery stores.
Currently, Colorado liquor law allows for only one liquor license per entity, eliminating the opportunity for large grocery chains to offer full- strength beer and wine statewide. While these chains do choose to operate within current law, most have a full- strength liquor section in a single storefront somewhere within the state.
This move to change current law has not gone without opposition. Many fear that allowing full-strength beer and wine sales in grocery stores would harm Colorado’s localized economy. Chuck Grineski of Loveland’s Elevation Liquors says, “We don’t want to see a loss of jobs across Colorado.” He fears many liquor stores across the state will be run out of business, and that the landscape of Colorado’s economic liquor structure will change for the worse. Grineski pointed out that because of Colorado’s unique liquor laws, the owners of these stores “all live here in Colorado, which keeps more money in the state.” If out-of-state corporations gain a stake in Colorado liquor sales, many fear that that money will leave the state.
Liquor store owners are not alone. Colin Jones of Greeley’s WeldWerks Brewing Co. does not agree that the people behind these changes are being completely honest about consumer choice. Jones references InBev’s recent takeover of local distribution company American Eagle, and the way large companies do business. InBev is the major stakeholder behind Anheuser-Busch. Jones says, “If big beer owns the distributors, and grocery stores only buy from distributors, how many choices do you think the consumer will actually see? Our local and regional breweries will be left out in the cold.”
The YCC campaign disagrees with the notion that a move to allow supermarket liquor sales would harm Colorado’s craft beer scene. Russell Novotny, one of Safeway’s Regional Liquor Sales Managers said, “In South Dakota the top 3 selling wines in Safeway Stores are local, beating out all the national brands;” drawing the conclusion that craft beer could see the same success on grocery store shelves in Colorado.
Addressing fears that small breweries would have trouble getting their product on grocery store shelves, John Brackney, former CEO of South Metro Chamber of Commerce says “Brew a great beer then make a call to the grocery store buyer. Grocery stores now have decision making authority right here in Colorado.”
You decide, Colorado. To weigh in on the subject go to facebook.com/thepintmag, give us a like and leave comment.