Proposition 124 in Colorado: Increasing the number of locations a liquor store chain can operate

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Wine selection at Argonaut Wine & Liquor, Colfax and Clarkson.

If this measure passes, it will allow chain liquor stores to significantly expand the number of outlets they can open in Colorado.

Currently, liquor stores are allowed to operate three storefronts, with that number set to increase to four by 2037. Proposition 124 would ease that restriction, allowing a liquor store to operate at eight locations and lifting the cap entirely by 2037.

The state has different types of liquor licenses, and the type of liquor license can change the number of storefronts a store is allowed to operate. For example, liquor-licensed drugstores can operate at eight locations. A retail liquor store can only open three locations.

This measure seeks to create parity between the different types of liquor licenses the state offers.

Here’s the language you’ll see on the ballot:

Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning increasing the number of retail liquor store licenses in which a person may hold an interest, and, in connection therewith, phasing in the increase by allowing up to 8 licenses by December 31, 2026, up to 13 licenses by December 31, 2031, up to 20 licenses by December 31, 2036, and an unlimited number of licenses on or after January 1, 2037?

How would it work?

Proposition 124 would immediately allow a company to operate up to eight liquor store locations, with that cap rising to 13 in 2027, 20 in 2032 and lifting entirely in 2037. However, it would only apply to stores licensed before 2016.

The same rules would apply to grocery chains, allowing them to gradually increase the number of outlets that sell a full range of alcoholic beverages. However, they would be required to buy out the licenses of two nearby liquor stores for each new location.

Who’s for it?

There is one backer promoting this measure: Total Wine & More. Total Wine & More is a national liquor store chain with 240 locations across 27 states. The company has three stores in Colorado, all in metro Denver. Total Wine & More was founded by brothers David and Robert Trone, the former of whom is currently a Democratic congressman from Maryland.

Total Wine & More and the Trones are the sole donors to the issue committee supporting the measure, Coloradans for Consumer Choice and Retail Fairness. So far, they have put over $3 million into it.

A spokesman for Total Wine & More said the ballot measure is about “correcting a gross imbalance in current law.”

Who’s against it?

Colorado currently has about 1,600 liquor stores. While some are large enough to operate multiple locations many are small and independently operated. They also have a high percentage of immigrant and women owners.

These smaller liquor stores generally oppose expanding liquor licensing. They see Proposition 124 as an existential threat which would allow national liquor store chains to move into Colorado and dominate the market.

“I love this community. This is my home. I'm honored to give back to it,” said Mat Dinsmore, co-owner of Wilber’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins. “I would ask voters to take a look: Convenience at what cost?”

Keeping Colorado Local is an issue committee formed to oppose the ballot measure. It has raised over $450,000.

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