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Liquor industry to beer & wine: Take us with you

Posted: 8:36 PM, Mar 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-25 22:36:23-04

When you vote in November, you might have to decide on three different initiatives -- all dealing with alcohol in grocery stores.

Your Choice Colorado is pushing a ballot initiative that would get rid of 3.2 percent alcohol beer and allow grocery stores to sell full strength beer and wine in multiple locations.

Under Colorado law, businesses that sell alcohol beyond 3.2 percent beer can only have one license to sell in one location.

"An increase of products in grocery stores like full strength beer and wine are going to lead to more grocery store jobs," said Matt Chandler, spokesman for Your Choice Colorado.

But distilleries and liquor providers were left out of this initiative. We wanted to know why. 

"We've been around the state for a number of months talking to people about what they wanted to see in terms of their selections of where to buy beer, wine and liquor. People wanted to see beer and wine in their grocery store, they wanted to see liquor in their liquor store," said Chandler.

"Our polling indicates that they want the same rules applying across the board," said Dale Szyndrowski, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council also known as DISCUS. "We think it sends the wrong message to just have full strength beer and wine in grocery stores." Szyndrowski said. 

The liquor industry is now fighting for two initiatives that move beer, wine and liquor into grocery stores together.

"We’ve always had a position that wherever full strength beer and wine are sold, distilled spirits should also be sold," said Szyndrowski. "We think the appropriate way to move forward is to not confuse the consumer."

However, with the potential of three ballot initiatives, voters could be quite confused. The initiatives must first pass state requirements and then have enough signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Here's how they could look:

  1. Should grocery and convenience stores be able to sell full strength beer and wine in multiple stores?
  2. Should grocery stores and convenience stores be able to sell full strength beer, wine and liquor in multiple stores?
  3. Should grocery stores and convenience stores be able to sell full strength beer, wine and liquor in a maximum of 10 locations?

"Is it good or bad if all of these initiatives are in front of the voter in November?" asked Denver7 political reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"It can certainly be complicated," said Chandler.

"Why not just fight against the ballot initiatives that say beer and wine in grocery stores?" Zelinger asked Szyndrowski.

"We are opposing it, in terms of putting forward our own initiatives."

Legislative attempts to change Colorado's Blue Law have failed in previous years.

Your Choice Colorado paid for study to show how much could be generated.

"The DU economic study predicted that there was going to be $125 million per year more sales for the Colorado craft beer industry," said Chandler.

Having started Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver7 asked Gov. John Hickenlooper his stance on yet another attempt to change Colorado law on alcohol in stores.

"Trying to change laws to make it a little cheaper to buy wine or a little cheaper to buy craft beer, doesn't seem as compelling an argument to me," said Hickenlooper. "The thing that always -- I thought craft beer was meaningful -- it is significantly more expensive, and so people are going to hopefully drink less. If you believe in Keynesian economics, they're going to drink less, but enjoy it more."

He also had concerns of potential job loss from liquor store businesses and the craft beer and wine industry.

"Those are good jobs, and if we're going to change the law and recognize that we're going to lose a third of them or a half of them, we should do so very carefully," said Hickenlooper.

If the ballot initiatives pass through the approval process, signature collection can begin later this spring.

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