The General Assembly will take up the issue of what kind of stores can sell what kind of beer yet again this session. A bill introduced yesterday would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full strength beer.
Representative Larry Liston unveiled his bill in the beer section of a King Soopers grocery store near Denver. Right now chains can only carry full-strength beer at one outlet, but Liston says there's no reason all grocery and convenience stores shouldn't be able to sell beer.
LISTON: "Consumers today are much more savvy and worldly and have traveled around and they know that other states have opened up their markets more so than what we've done here. So it is to give consumers a choice and an option."
Liston believes liquor stores should be able to survive the new competition if they've got a good business model, in part because his bill only expands beer sales, not wine or spirits.
LISTON: "If they have the attitude that they can do it, they'll be able to compete effectively with good service and good product selection and on a good price."
But Jeanne McEvoy, president of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, warns that large grocery chains would be able to undercut independently owned liquor stores on price, driving many out of business.
McEVOY: "We want to retain our jobs, keep our Colorado businesses in business, keep our minors safe, and most of all, keep the money that's generated by family-owned Colorado businesses here in Colorado."
Liquor stores say allowing groceries and convenience stores to sell beer could lead to more underage drinking, by putting the product in stores where minors shop.
Colorado's craft breweries also strongly oppose expanding beer sales, saying they fear that if independent liquor stores close, there would be fewer outlets to carry their products. Governor John Hickenlooper used to own a brewpub and earlier this year his administration intervened in another beer sales fight. Yesterday he declined to weigh in on the new bill, but he didn't sound welcoming.
HICKENLOOPER: "Some very wise governors suggested I never say I'm going to veto something until you see what form it comes in. You say you're going to veto it and then it changes, completely changes in such a way that it becomes a different bill."
Legislation expanding beer sales to other types of businesses have been introduced numerous times in recent years, and none have so far made it out of the General Assembly. A similar bill allowing convenience stores to sell beer was recently introduced in the Senate.