Local Liquor Stores Escape Big Box Bullet

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Liquor store operators in Teller County and the entire Pikes Peak region received a preliminary July 4th gift, in the form of an abandoned state-wide petition drive.

This is good news for independent liquor outlets in the area, with some business owners already bracing themselves for an expensive counter-political campaign. And once again, they have apparently escaped the big box bullet, at least for the short-term.

Late last week, Your Choice Colorado, which is supported by the Safeway and King Soopers’ chains, pulled the plug on its proposed ballot measure that would have permitted full-strength beer and wine sales to all grocery outlets immediately. Oddly enough, the group had reportedly collected close to 90 percent of the autographs it needed to get its measure on the November ballot.

But political experts say Your Choice Colorado may have faced a losing battle at the ballot box. More specifically, they had to counter the reality of a compromise bill, passed by state lawmakers and signed by Governor John Hickenlooper. This legislation paved the way for grocery stores to eventually sell full-strength beer, wine and liquor, but imposed stringent conditions in the next few years. Some of these conditions included requiring big box outlets to buy out two nearby liquor stores and the licenses of all liquor outlets within a 1,500-foot radius. Plus, they couldn’t sell hard liquor until 2019.

They are allowed to obtain five liquor licenses, under the bill. By 2037, all restrictions will be lifted.

Hickenlooper, a former brewpub owner who supported the rights of independent liquor store outlets and microbreweries, signed the bill reluctantly.

With these conditions, no liquor stores would be adversely impacted, according to sources.
However, local liquor store operators were nervous about the Your Choice petition drive, saying it could put them out of business.

Colorado is one of the few states that doesn’t permit grocery store outlets to sell full-strength beer and wine. The controversy dates back to a 1933 law that restricts grocery chains to a single liquor license for full-strength beer and wine and liquor. Other stores in the chain can sell 3.2 percent beer.

This liquor license issue gets debated in Colorado almost every year.