New liquor legislation on the table |

New liquor legislation on the table

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Don Bernes is annoyed locals have been asked to sign petitions to allow chain stores to sell regular strength beer.

Colorado lawmakers are expected to consider legislation that would ban 3.2 percent alcohol beer this year and allow grocery and convenience stores to sell regular beer.

Safeway and 7-Eleven in Glenwood Springs have offered petitions in support of the legislation.

“My wife told me she was asked to sign a petition for them to sell full strength beer,” said Bernes, owner of Springs Liquors. “It’s kind of annoying to have to shop somewhere where that would happen. Normal petitioning as far as I know has always been done by someone sitting in front of the store, but they have the person who just sold you your groceries ask you that. It’s a bit of a bummer.”

A City Market employee said the store has not tried to get signatures for petitions.

Requests for comment from City Market and 7-Eleven were referred to corporate spokesmen.

Liquor store owners say the legislation would put them in unfair competition with chain stores, which can get greater discounts for larger bulk purchases than small liquor stores can get.

“I can’t have two stores in town,” Bernes said. “But if I was City Market and this passed, all City Markets could buy full strength beer. … It’s an uneven field in terms of competition.”

Liquor stores say that would force them to close or lay off employees. They also say the bill would be unfair because grocery stores could have teenagers selling beer, while liquor store employees must be 21 or older. Liquor store owners also fear that grocery and convenience stores would use the ability to sell regular beer to work toward getting permission to sell all types of alcohol.

“We would be against it because beer sales are a large part of our sales,” said Tracy Wolff, owner of Turtle’s Glenwood Liquor. “If the market’s got it we would see a decrease in our sales. As a small business that has eight to 10 employees, I’d have to cut back on people, which isn’t really good for the economy or the town of Glenwood Springs.”

Bernes said most small liquor stores are involved in the local community. He said Springs Liquors has donated to organizations like 4-H and Kiwanis.

Bernes said, “If the intention of lawmakers is to take money out of local businesses and send it to corporate headquarters ” if that’s what the citizens of Colorado want than I guess that’s what they’re going to get.”

Sean Duffy, spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association, said, “That is just utterly absurd. The liquor store monopoly never wants to talk about the small convenience store ” the family that owns the 7-11 in Glenwood Springs. They won’t talk about the Conoco store on (Highway) 82. They don’t want to talk about that because those small businesses are rooted in the community as are the grocers. The grocers donate significant amounts to community organizations on the Western Slope, all over the state.”

Grocery and convenience stores say that a bill allowing liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays last year unfairly cut into their 3.2 Sunday beer sales. Sunday liquor sales hadn’t been allowed in Colorado since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

Colorado was the 35th state to allow liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Duffy said the legislation to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell regular beer is “urgently needed” because most stores are reporting they’re down a minimum of 2/3 for 3.2 beer sales after liquor stores started cutting into their Sunday sales. He said losing that business in beer sales also means losing other business associated with it.

He does not believe grocery or convenience stores would be able to get better discounts on beer than liquor stores would. He said, “I think they’re comparing apples to lug nuts.”

Duffy said there’s no evidence that grocery stores selling beer leads to the demise of liquor stores. He said there are liquor stores in California and Arizona, where grocery and convenience stores can sell beer, wine and hard liquor.

Duffy said liquor stores are trying to hold onto their “huge monopoly,” and grocery and convenience stores just want to let everyone sell regular beer so consumers can decide where they want to shop. He said grocery and convenience stores are saddled with a less desirable product but are still being asked to compete with liquor stores.

“How many slurpees can you sell to replace beer? There’s an upper limit to the slurpee market,” he said, adding later, “That’s just not the way America works.”

Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121

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