Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Quick-Post: The continuing saga of liquor laws in Colorado.

Consider this a non-Friday Beer Post. I ran across something interesting in this mornings Denver Post. The grocery store lobby in this state continues to try and get full-service liquor license rights for it's supermarket members. I don't want to get too political with this site, but it's about beer (and our ability to purchase it), so damn it, I'm gonna talk about it.

Over the past year, there have been varying pushes by convenience stores and supermarkets to crack into the liquor selling industry. In Colorado, the only stores that can regularly sell full strength liquor or beer are full-time liquor stores. One of the first things I noticed when moving to Boulder (admittedly a college town) was the fact that there was at least one liquor store for every commercially zoned block. Many of these stores would be muscled out by mega-marts undercutting their prices on staple beer and liquors. While large liquor retailers, like LiquorMart or TotalBeverage will get along just fine, the smaller stores will slowly cease to exist. What this would bring to the state is 3-fold:
  1. Less liquor license revenue. With the right to sell full-strength alcohol resting only in the hands of small-ish liquor stores, the state gets more revenue from the sale of liquor licenses than it would if the mega-marts had the same ability. There are some 1600 licenses in the state currently, and that number would decrease rapidly if mom-an-pop stores were bought out. Business license and tax revenues goes along with this concept.
  2. Fewer jobs. Along the same line, with the current system, the large amount of small, dedicated liquor stores means more jobs. If the supermarkets are allowed to sell liquor, many of those extra retail jobs would disappear.
  3. Less variety. Supermarkets have their own national distributors, and it is often hard for micro and craft breweries to get onto supermarket shelves. In Colorado, because of the high number of independent liquor stores, there is a higher level of competition in the market. I know I choose what liquor store to go to based not on location or convenience, but by selection and price, and I have plenty of option to choose from.
I see no benefit to Colorado in giving the mega-marts the ability to sell hard liquor. Much of the extra income generated would leave the state, as those corporations are national, and not local. Add to that the loss of license and tax revenue, jobs, and variety, and it just makes no sense to change the current law. The proposal in the linked article is doubly worrisome. Smaller stores would just be bullied into selling out to the mega-marts. If you don't think there'd be intimidation involved, then you're just fooling yourself. In addition, closing two stores every-time a mega-mart starts selling liquor would just accelerate the loss of small businesses and jobs. It's crap legislation, and needs to die in committee.

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