Bill Could Avert Ballot Measure On Grocery Store Alcohol Sales

A bill that aims to avoid a costly ballot fight over alcohol sales at grocery stores is moving through the Colorado legislature.

It would allow grocery and convenience store chains to buy up to 20 liquor licenses, gradually, over a 20 year period. Right now, a company can own no more than one liquor license in the state.

Independent liquor stores worry that allowing grocery chains to sell full strength wine and beer would put them out of business.

This bill would require large retailers wishing to sell booze to buy out nearby liquor stores first. Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, the bill sponsor, is confident his measure will defuse a ballot proposal that would allow all groceries to apply for liquor licenses.

“Overnight, people’s businesses and their investments become destabilized," Steadman said. "They can easily be put out of business by the big competitors of big corporate chain stores from out of state.”

Steadman's bill has the support of some liquor store owners and grocery chains, but not all of them.