Battle Over Full Strength Beer Sales Brewing Again

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - After similar measures failed three times, it might not be a coincidence that one state lawmaker chose St. Patrick's Day to introduce a bill -- hoping the luck of the Irish will be with him as he tries to get full strength beer into grocery stores and convenience stores.

Once again, a battle is brewing over brew.

"45 other states have this and it works very well for the consumers," said State Representative Larry Liston, (R) Colorado Springs.

"It seems like a bad economy to change any law that would hurt any kind of small business," said Monty Haltiner, Manager of Crossroads Wine & Spirits.

For decades, grocery and convenience stores have only been allowed to sell beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. Liquor stores can carry "full strength beer" with a higher alcohol content. Liston says that doesn't make sense.

"Liquor stores have a monopoly, I repeat, a monopoly," said Liston. "And most consumers would agree that monopolies are not a healthy thing."

For the second straight year, he's sponsoring a bill that would allow all stores to sell full strength beer -- giving shoppers the convenience, he says, of buying it wherever they want.

"We're not doing anything unique or different here than what's being done in virtually every state in the union," said Liston.

But liquor stores say the move is only convenient for big grocery corporations.

"There's only so many liquor sales that are going to happen in Colorado," said Haltiner. "And you're going to double the amount of outlets they're available in."

Haltiner says grocery and convenience stores make plenty on the other products they sell, not to mention the sheer number of liquor stores already makes things pretty convenient for shoppers.

"Quit wasting our legislators time on this over and over again," said Haltiner. "It's going to hurt somebody, I guarantee it. And somebody is going to go out of business and people are going to lose their jobs."

Liston says that's not the intent of his bill and he's not convinced liquor stores will lose business. Still he knows this has been a tough issue to crack -- and is trying to remain optimistic things will be different this time around.

"The consumers are much more aware and involved this time than they've ever been before," said Liston.

Colorado law currently allows grocery stores to get one license for one store in the state where they can sell full strength beer. A spokesperson for King Soopers / City Market says that particular store near Denver has four liquor stores within a one mile radius and none of them have gone out of business.

The bill could be taken up by a House committee as early as next week.


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