Fiona MacLeod of Scotland purchases beer Thursday afternoon from Jeff Worst, co-owner of Pioneer Spirits, 1104 Lincoln Ave. Colorado lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow liquor sales on Sundays and permit grocery stores to sell wine and beer with more than 3.2 percent alcohol content.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Fiona MacLeod of Scotland purchases beer Thursday afternoon from Jeff Worst, co-owner of Pioneer Spirits, 1104 Lincoln Ave. Colorado lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow liquor sales on Sundays and permit grocery stores to sell wine and beer with more than 3.2 percent alcohol content.

Many retailers against changing liquor laws

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— Prohibition has been over for 75 years, but Colorado's liquor laws still possess vestiges of regulations dating to 1933. State legislators are aiming to change that, drawing the ire of local retailers.

A bill has been introduced for the 2008 legislative session that would make Colorado the 35th state to permit liquor sales on Sundays. Another bill is in the works that would greatly expand what some grocery stores can stock.

"I think our laws are outdated," said state Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, who introduced the bill allowing Sunday retail liquor sales. "It makes sense in this day and age."

Veiga introduced SB-082 earlier this month, citing consumer convenience as her primary motivation. The bill is awaiting a hearing in the Senate's Business, Labor and Technology Committee, which Veiga chairs.

Other states that have overridden so-called "blue laws" forbidding Sunday liquor sales have seen considerable economic benefits, Veiga said.

But a number of Steamboat Springs liquor stores, especially those that cater primarily to the local market, fear staying open on Sundays would either not be worth their while or that the passage of SB-082 would pave the way for even less-desired changes to state liquor laws.

"Sunday sales - I'm terribly against it," Central Park Liquor owner Greg Stetman said. "It's my opinion that people are not going to drink any more because we have another day to sell."

While Cellar Liquor owner Chris Gibbens embraced the idea of an additional day of revenue each week, he was unsure how the profits would balance out in the end - whether he would see an increase from his current sales levels, or a similar level that would be spread across an entire week instead of six days.

Owners were in agreement that any Sunday sales boost the legislation would provide would be primarily from ski season tourists.

Market on the Mountain owner Bill Stuart is used to explaining the Sunday sales prohibition to dozens of confused tourists each week. He said reversing the restriction could add a very profitable day to his week since ski season makes up a significant portion of his profit.

"Our out-of-town guests would be better served if we could sell wine on Sunday, since they might only be here a few days," Stuart said.

Stetman expressed reservations that changing the current liquor laws would be akin to "opening a huge can of worms," and could have even worse impacts on independent liquor stores, especially by expanding the opportunities for grocery stores and chain retailers to capture market share.

"The minute we have Sunday sales, within one year, there will be a huge rallying cry from all the chain stores to get a multiple-license possible," Stetman said.

Under current laws, each owner can have only a stake in one entity with a liquor license, which prevents chain liquor stores from cropping up in Colorado and limits grocery stores to a single store in the state with full liquor sales, Stetman said.

Beer market

A second bill, expected to be introduced in coming weeks by Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, would allow certain grocery stores to sell regular beer and wine, instead of being limited to sales of 3.2 beer under current law. Qualifying retailers would be required to have a pharmacy and have food comprise at least 51 percent of sales - eliminating retail giants such as Wal-Mart, as well as smaller grocery stores and rural mercantiles that lack pharmacies.

"I don't want to see what it will do to independent businesses," said Pioneer Spirits co-owner Jeff Worst. Worst has discussed the issue with many of his distributors, and said their responses have been entirely negative.

"I think you're going to put a lot of liquor stores out of business," Stetman said. "If you pass any of these (bills), the whole thing will come crumbling down."

Gibben and Stetman said they would have to change the focus of their stock to remain competitive if the law is passed, perhaps by focusing more on wine and specialty products while eschewing beer.

While customers still would frequent liquor stores with good selections of wine, spirits and microbrews, smaller liquor stores, especially those that sell a significant amount of domestic beer, would be in trouble, Stetman said.

"We make the least on beer, so we have the least to lose," Stetman said.

Downtown liquor retailers also speculated they would be less affected by grocery store sales than other merchants but still expect such a change would hurt their businesses.

"It's definitely going to affect a few retailers more than it does us," Gibbens said, noting that Ski Haus and Central Park liquor stores are adjacent to City Market and Safeway and others such as Vino are close by.

"It'll be interesting to see how it all pans out," Gibbens said.

Comments

sickofitall 6 years, 7 months ago

Utah sells beer and wine on Sundays :), and not JUST 3.2 %

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grannyrett 6 years, 7 months ago

In Arizona, you never see liquor stores at all. All the grocery stores, drug stores and convenience stores sell liquor and beer. There isn't anything liquor that can't be bought in those. A change to allow Sunday sales probably won't change much. If you own a business, you can decide for yourself what days you will be open, can't you? BUT-You will lose a lot of your liquor store businesses if any store can sell liquor.

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Newcomer 6 years, 7 months ago

Hmm, I can see why the liquor store owners would not like to see a store like City Market selling the same products that they can sell (they can't compete, and are relying on protectionist regulation), but why would any members of the general public be opposed to these changes?

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love_boat 6 years, 7 months ago

I was picking up some beer and wine in Texas once with my then 20 year old daughter. My daughter, who worked as a waitress at the time carried a 6-pack to the checkout counter for me and I was not allowed to buy the beer because she carried it for me. At her job she could carry beer, wine and mixed drinks in an open glass from the bar to the customer but could not carry 6 unopened cans to a register.

I spent a couple days in Indiana last summer and they don't allow children inside stores that sell alcohol and families with minor children can't dine at a table in the bar area of a resturant. I don't mean at the bar but in a room that has a bar in view which would describe most of the food establishments in Steamboat. Colorado is not the only state with bizzare alcohol sales laws.

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justathought 6 years, 7 months ago

[Veiga introduced SB-082 earlier this month, citing consumer convenience as her primary motivation.] YEAH RIGHT, I'd like to know what her primary motivation really is, I can't believe the consumer has actually been lobbying for this. With all of the important issues facing us today I doubt she woke up one day and said buying liquor on Sunday was an important issue for her constituents. Thank goodness for politicians like her, looking out for all of us stupid people that may forget to stock up on booze to get us through Sunday. Politicians, at least some of 'em have their priorities straight(?).

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BoatMaster 6 years, 7 months ago

Justathought

It was me. I called Veiga at home last Sunday. I needed a six pack real quick.

Glad to see she is doing something about it.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 7 months ago

Idle question and only marginally related - I had a layover at the Salt Lake airport over the holidays. Bellied up to the bar & ordered a beer. The bartender, instead of simply putting glass in front of me, walked out from behind the bar & carried it to me. Said it was required by law. Anyone have any insight into the "reasoning" for that?

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flotilla 6 years, 7 months ago

to make sure you aren't hiding someone underneath the bar?

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 7 months ago

let er rip, these arcane laws have had a stranglehold on the public for years, wholesalers distributers, and retailers, have been ripping off each other and the uninitiated long enough. Lets see a free open system for merchandising these products, I would bet the whole industry would be elevated to higher standards as well as more competitive pricing, in fact get rid of the anti competitive wholesale network and dealers buy direct form distillers, brewers and wineries, this industry has been held back long enough, grow up people......... when you 'er green you'er growing, when you'er ripe you rot.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 7 months ago

"from", sorry...... also if you want a store with no competition and close on Sunday or whatever day you want, go open a store in Maybell, you can be big time there...........

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Newcomer 6 years, 7 months ago

Maybe she is doing it because she ahs been unconvinced by these clearly out of date laws, and has the power to do something about it, and in doing so eliminate the same inconvenience for many, many people. In any case, I can not imagine anyone having an objection, except those who benefit - the store owners (and of course their employees and families).

While no where near a top priority, it seems like a simple fix why not move ahead?

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corduroy 6 years, 7 months ago

Competition from grocers and convenience stores will only impact sales somewhat. There will still be unique and rare wines and beers, not to mention all that liquor, at local liquor stores. Grocers who carry alcohol generally do not have the space to fully stock as many brands etc.

Wehre I'm from in NY, you buy your beer at the gas station or grocer and your wine and liquor at at liquor store.. and there are still plenty around

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ColoradoNative 6 years, 7 months ago

Liquor sales is a racket here in Colorado. Let the chains compete with monopoly the liquor stores have going. Sell booze on sundays and be done with it.

The liquor store owners who are complaining about their bottom line can stay closed on Sundays if they don't want to work that day.

Viega should write a bill to cap the cost of a 12 back of cheap ass beer at 15 bucks a 12 pack because it's getting awfully close to that already. That's the real problem.

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bloggyblog 6 years, 7 months ago

jazzslave, one time bloggy was drinking a margarita at a restaurant in utah. when bloggys 'sponsor' friend was in the bathroom bloggy walked from the diningroom into the bar holding the margarita. the bartender completely flipped out screaming"you can't have that in here! you've got to take that out of the bar!!" bloggy learned from his friend that you can have a mixed drink in the diningroom or the deck, but not the bar. which of course makes perfect sense. its always fun drinking in foreign countries.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 7 months ago

yes I spent a month in Utah for four days, never again, skiing was terrific but the rules, I couldn't get straight, made no sense to me, now days I get to Bendover as quick as I can............

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justathought 6 years, 7 months ago

mud, sounds like you may have been around the antlers when old man Benedict was in one of his cantankerous moods.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 7 months ago

letomayo,,,,,,,, you sure are a bundle of joy this morning..........

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letomayo 6 years, 7 months ago

Drink up everyone! A toast to those who own liquor stores. Have you ever seen one thats gone out of business. Maybe Stetner and his other drug pushers could sell marijane on the side. Liquor store owners like to control the entire drug scene. The worst drug out there is liquor and we allow it and now hard liquor commercials are back of tv. How did that happen?

Liquor people want you to drink BUT responsibily. Pass the bottle and could I have a cigaret with it? How many people has liquor killed and maimed and caused lifelong heartach and disease and we got rid of cigarets. Second hand smoke is no better then second hand death on the highway straight out with no time to tell family goodbye or lifelong injuries costing family's and taxpayers a fortune.

Liquor people want it there way or no way. how many drunks will be on the rode or beating there wifes or children after a super bowl loss this weekend? How many kids will be drinking with there parents during the game in there homes. how many kids get an early start on the drinking habit? We always have a good reason to drink even if the out comes are not good.

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madmoores 6 years, 7 months ago

Jazzslave-"Idle question and only marginally related - I had a layover at the Salt Lake airport over the holidays. Bellied up to the bar & ordered a beer. The bartender, instead of simply putting glass in front of me, walked out from behind the bar & carried it to me. Said it was required by law. Anyone have any insight into the "reasoning" for that?"

Sorry, no insight, heck I didn't even think there were bars, or liquor stores, in Utah. Only kidding of course but they have always been pretty tight with the liquor laws and I suspect your occurence was within one of them. In MY opinion, maybe he was bored and was jacking with you, had a bet going and all. Utah is weird anyway(I love it there though, beautiful place)so most people brush it off as it just being "one of those Utah things" and accept it as it is. Guess I had better shut-up before someone gets all worked up but nonetheless, a strange occurrence indeed. That law must have been made up by the same type of people who came up with "no pumping your own gas" in Oregon. That one threw me...and a poor, unsuspecting, truck touching gas attendant who seemed more confused than I did(relating to "why doesn't he know about this law and why is this guy turning red"). I could care less what day of the week they sell it but I do agree with the in-grocery store idea. That would make it cheaper at least. Booze @ WalMart prices? Bring it!

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handyman 6 years, 7 months ago

Last time I was in Utah, I went into a state run liquor store. They do exist.

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thecondoguy1 6 years, 7 months ago

state run, music to my ears, not, no wonder I fill up in Wyoming and don't stop till I get to Bendover........

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letomayo 6 years, 7 months ago

condoguy, I wundered why I ran into the wall when I got out of bed this a.m. you're comment made me laugh.

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JazzSlave 6 years, 7 months ago

madmoores - I don't think he was jacking with me. If he was, he was a good actor. When I asked him why he came out from behind the bar, he just shook his head & said "ask the Mormans."

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madmoores 6 years, 7 months ago

Haha, which is probably what I would have said. How strange.

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