My first official by-line for the Boulder Daily Camera
By Charlie Howard
Special to the Camera
Link to Story: Here
What governor approved, what grocers want
SB 197: Opens up sales of full-strength beer, wine and liquor at grocery and convenience stores starting next year, with full implementation over 20 years
Your Choice ballot initiative: Would create food store liquor license to allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer and wine, but not liquor, effective in 2017
SB 197: Would prohibit new liquor licenses from being issued within a 1,500-foot radius of an existing establishment and require new applicants to buy two existing licenses within jurisdiction
Your Choice ballot initiative: No restrictions on location
SB 197: Allows liquor stores to generate sales up to 20 percent of total revenue from food items. Food sales, except of items related to alcohol such as limes and olives, are currently prohibited.
Your Choice ballot initiative: No provisions for liquor stores to sell food
Coloradans will be allowed to buy full-strength beer, wine and liquor in grocery stores, on a limited basis next year, after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a controversial bill allowing those sales Friday.
The new law, widely viewed as a compromise measure, came after weeks of deliberations and a long legislative battle to craft a compromise.
Liquor store owners had come to back the new law, though some grocers remain adamantly opposed. In addition to planning a ballot measure this fall, grocers said Friday they may challenge the measure in the courts.
Senate Bill 16-197 will be implemented in multiple phases. Next year, the number of liquor licenses a grocery chain can possess grows from one to five and will gradually increase over the next 20 years.
Beginning in 2019, grocers will end sales of 3.2 percent-only beer and by the beginning of 2037 an unlimited number of additional liquor licenses will be available.
The bill passed the Colorado State Senate on May 9 and passed the Colorado House on May 11.
Tiffany Lough, general manager of Boulder's Liquor Mart, at 1750 15th St., said she was pleased with the governor's decision.
"This was definitely the best compromise that could have been reached," Lough said.
The bill had the endorsement of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, of which Liquor Mart is a member.
The law has a proximity restriction, which would prohibit new liquor licenses from being issued within a 1,500-foot radius of an existing establishment and which would require new applicants to buy two existing licenses within each jurisdiction.
For communities with fewer than 10,000 people, the radius grows to 3,000 feet.
Erik Lebsack, owner of Boulder's Bailey's Wine and Spirits at 4800 Baseline Road, said that he was indifferent to the change. The store is within the 1,500-foot radius of a Safeway.
"It doesn't create any new opportunities for us," Lebsack said, but it prevents the nearby Safeway from competing with his store head-to-head.
Despite the compromises in the legislation, grocery stores remain opposed because they view the measure as being too restrictive. In response the grocers' coalition, Your Choice Colorado, has put together a ballot initiative that as of Friday afternoon contained nearly 87,000 of the 93,000 signatures required to make it onto the ballot, Your Choice officials said.
Georgie Aguire Saca, campaign manager for Your Choice Colorado said that she was "disappointed with the flawed bill" and said the decision was too rushed.
"We believe too many people were left out of the conversation and believe that some portions of the bill could be unconstitutional," Saca said.
The ballot initiative includes only the sale of full-strength beer and wine and excludes the sale of spirits. It would take effect at the beginning of 2017. There is also no proximity restriction.
In addition to pursuing the ballot initiative, Saca said that Your Choice Colorado is considering legal action to overturn the new law.