This New Year’s Day, a new Colorado law took effect, allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer. While stores like King Soopers and 7-Eleven still cannot sell wine, cider, or liquor, they can now ditch the 3.2 ABV barely-beers after 85 years.
This new law is not unique, as many states have allowed grocery stores to sell beer for years at this point. In the Colorado law, liquor stores are permitted to open a second location, sell up to 20 percent of their revenue in food, and will maintain control of wine and liquor sales in the state. This does not sound like a just benefit to me, as snacks to pair with beverages do not contribute much to how grocery stores make their money. Cases of BudLight and Coors, however, are a large portion of liquor stores, even if one cannot currently go to a grocer for wine.
Additionally, any sense of protection the law gives liquor stores is a bit of an illusion. Yes, any new grocery store that also wants to sell liquor must buy two liquor licenses and one from any preexisting liquor store within 1,500 feet of the premises. This obstacle, however, is irrelevant to currently operating grocery stores, like our local King Soopers, which shares a wall with Queen Liquor. If a large corporation can cut even cents off of the same product next door to an independent business, then I fear customers will not make the short walk to get their beer.
Additionally, Fox News Denver quotes State Senator Chris Holbert saying that the gradual effects of this bill are not solely limited to beer. “Over a 20 year period, the grocery stores will be able to have 20 locations where they will be able to sell everything,” said Holbert. If grocery stores can become liquor stores, then an independently owned business or small chain has minimal to no leverage over the one-stop-shop that is Safeway.
Colorado has the second most craft breweries in the nation, and while many grocers have released statements committing to sell some Colorado-made beers, the selection will never match that of our friends in the neighborhood. But the independent liquor stores in our city and state cannot sustain themselves simply by providing the niche beers the “local” section of the King Soopers fridge doesn’t have. Local stores could take a huge hit in sales of larger brands, especially when wine and liquor come into the picture in the mid 2030s.
We still cannot predict the impact of this recent change, despite any law trying to protect the hit liquor stores will take. In rural Colorado, where grocers and liquor stores are spread out, and in Colorado Springs, where shopping at one place may save you a few minutes, we could start to lose the variety of both retailers and products available to people. Did I mention grocery stores can deliver beer, if they follow certain protocol? Yeah, that’s sick, but you could still use the walk.
So, whatever you do, I urge you to not change your habits. It may be tempting to throw in a six-pack with your groceries, or walk a shorter distance to 7-Eleven rather than Weber, but they’ve been doing just fine before full-strength beer, and our local stores don’t have all that much without it. Will anything change in the near or distant future for Colorado’s privately owned liquor stores? Hopefully not, but only time will tell. They’ve for sure had your back, so do what you can to return the favor.
We live in a unique downtown and neighborhood area with more independent businesses than I have seen in many cities. I am nervous to see what that would look like if it were to change.