The last day of the 2016 session at the Colorado House saw the passage of a historic bill that may expand liquor sales in Colorado grocery stores. Best of all, this new bill is said to have the support local liquor store owners and craft beer makers.
Senate Bill 197 would allow grocery stores and major retailers like Target and Walmart to slowly obtain additional licenses to sell liquor, wine, and full-strength beer over the next 20 years, beginning in 2017. Currently stores can only get a single license, allowing them to sell alcohol at only one location per chain. The new bill would allow them to get a total of 20 licenses over the next 20 years, and in 2037 all restrictions would end and they could apply for unlimited licenses.
Liquor stores support this bill because in order for the grocery stories to obtain the extra licenses, they must buy out the licenses of liquor stores within 1,500 feet of the grocery’s location. Liquor stores would also be able to increase their total licenses from one to four.
This bill was introduced as a compromise to prevent a November ballot initiative that would allow grocery stores to start selling full-strength beer and wine in all locations as early as July 2017. While the gradual roll-out proposed by today’s bill is said to have the support of Colorado’s craft brewers, liquor stores, several grocery stores, Walmart and Target, a few grocers aren’t too happy with this solution. Representatives from both King Soopers and Safeway have said they feel this bill is too restrictive, and they will continue to push for the November initiative.
The next stop for SB197 is Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk. In the past he’s been opposed to changing our local liquor laws, so it will be interesting to see if he agrees to sign off on this compromise bill. If Governor Hickenlooper vetoes the bill, there is little lawmakers can do, since their 2016 legislative session ended on Wednesday.
So what do you think about this bill? While we are all about Keeping Colorado Local we think this bill feels like the right compromise. It seems obvious that our Colorado liquor sale laws will change at some point, however we prefer the idea of it happening gradually over time, and not all at once. When it comes to full strength beer, wine and spirits, moderation just feels like the right thing.