When it comes to reforming Colorado’s arbitrary and arcane alcohol laws, voters should be guided by their own convenience and by their conscience.
So, by all means, vote yes on Propositions 125 and 126 to allow wine in grocery stores and third-party delivery of alcohol if that’s important to you, but don’t forget to vote yes on Proposition 124 to save our locally owned and operated liquor stores.
Proposition 124 would free liquor stores from restrictions on how many locations they can currently own. This is especially important because, starting in just a few years, grocery stores will have no restrictions on how many of their locations can have attached or adjacent liquor stores. And if proposition 125 passes, these stores will also be able to stock wine right alongside beer inside their store.
Jim Shpall, the owner of Applejack Wine and Spirits in Wheat Ridge, Colorado Springs, and Thornton, fears that once the floodgates open and every grocery store location is able to have an attached liquor store and beer and wine on the shelves, his business will be doomed.
This is not just another free enterprise story of a business becoming obsolete like Blockbuster, but rather liquor stores in Colorado have had their hands tied by regulations for decades, and if they fail now to big box stores and mega-grocery store chains, it will be the government’s fault.
Shpall thinks he can compete with Costco or Walmart alcohol sales on price and selection if the regulatory environment opens up so he can own more locations and compete head-to-head.
Landmark legislation approved by lawmakers in 2016 cracked open the floodgates and allowed each grocery store chain to have one liquor store at a single store location in the entire state if they bought out nearby liquor licenses and cleared some other hurdles. But under current law, the floodgates are scheduled to slowly open fully, starting with allowing 8 locations this year, 13 locations in 2027, 20 locations in 2032, and unlimited in 2037.
Meanwhile, liquor stores are still limited to 3 stores until it increases to a paltry 4 in 2027 and stays there.
Proposition 124 simply gives liquor stores parity to grocery stores, allowing them to ramp up locations right along with grocery stores. That is fair.
And there is value in liquor stores remaining in business. The stores are an entry point for Colorado’s many local craft distillers, vintners, and brewers of beer and cider. Shpall loves to yarn about the many Colorado alcohol producers who he has helped to expand their market on the shelves of Applejack’s store. Those brewers are also small businesses that could be harmed if national chain grocers — Target, Kroger, Safeway, etc. — end up holding the entire market.
We hope voters will vote yes on Proposition 124.
As for Propositions 125 and 126, we are less enthusiastic but also fail to see how they would cause any demonstrable harm. We are in favor of reducing regulations and opening up the free market as long as the playing field is even. It also will certainly be convenient to have wine on the shelves of grocery stores and to allow third-party delivery companies (think Doordash) to deliver alcohol from liquor stores, grocery stores, bars, and restaurants.
Our biggest hesitation is honestly the loss of food selection and variety in grocery stores if a great deal of shelf space is dedicated to wine. Most Coloradans rely on their neighborhood grocery store for their food, and it’s important to have a wide variety of offerings, whether it’s healthy produce options or just a variety of name-brand and bargain-brand foods, so that consumers can price shop.
We hope grocery stores don’t dedicate too much space to their wine and beer offerings, as the many local liquor stores in town already are providing that service.
Third-party alcohol delivery does run the risk of underage drinkers getting access to alcohol, but we feel confident the companies that operate in the food delivery realm can make requirements about ID checks at the moment of delivery ironclad. If problems arise, lawmakers should pass regulations to tighten down deliveries.
We urge voters to support all three of the alcohol ballot questions on their ballot – Propositions 124, 125 and 126.
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