Bill Adjusting Alcohol Sales in Colorado Grocery Stores Moves Forward

A bill proposed in the Colorado House has passed the Business Affairs and Labor Committee by a narrow margin of 6-5 votes. This bill, known as House Bill 1373, aims to modify liquor licenses for larger grocery stores, limiting them to selling only beer and wine, not spirits.

The legislation sparked lengthy discussions from both sides, including a rally on the Capitol steps. Just two years ago, voters narrowly approved Proposition 125, allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell wine, a move that primarily affected liquor store sales.

The bill targets approximately 30 stores, including those operated by Safeway, King Soopers, Costco, Walmart, Target, and Sam’s Club, mostly along the Front Range. It also impacts five drug stores in various cities across Colorado.

The debate traces back to 2016 when a compromise called the “Grand Compromise” was reached between small liquor stores and certain grocery and convenience stores. This agreement required grocery stores seeking to sell alcohol to buy out any liquor licenses within 1,500 feet. Proposition 125 later reduced this distance to 500 feet for stores selling beer and wine.

Support for the bill comes from independent liquor store owners and members of Colorado’s craft beer and spirits industry, who gathered at the Capitol in a rally organized by Colorado Independent Liquor Stores United. They argue that allowing grocery stores to sell alcohol beyond beer and wine has significantly impacted their businesses, with sales dropping by 30% to 50%.

Proponents of HB 1373, like Rep. Judy Amabile, stress the importance of supporting small businesses to maintain a thriving economy. However, opponents express concerns about potential safety issues and the impact on existing agreements between retailers.

While the bill moves forward, it also addresses other aspects of alcohol sales, such as display practices in grocery stores and limitations on alcohol content. The proposed changes aim to provide a level playing field for all retailers while ensuring safety and regulatory compliance.

The fate of HB 1373 remains uncertain, with various perspectives shaping the ongoing debate about the future of alcohol sales in Colorado.

(Contributions to this report were made by Marianne Goodland, a reporter for Colorado Politics.)

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