Convenience stores

Push for wine sales at Colorado grocery stores, convenience stores are too close to call

The Coloradans raised their glass to a batch of alcohol-based measures on Tuesday – but not in favor of passing them all.

Voters rejected Proposition 124, halting all plans by major out-of-state liquor store chains that envisioned Colorado’s rapid expansion. Proposition 126, which would have allowed third-party services like Instacart and DoorDash to deliver alcohol to customers, was heading for defeat. He was trailing by 5.36 percentage points at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The apparent defeat of both measures was a major victory for opponents, which included many neighborhood liquor stores. Opponents spent more than expected on their 30-to-1 fundraising campaign.

“Over the past few weeks, we felt that even though it was David vs. Goliath because (the developers) had raised over $30 million, our message was starting to resonate,” said Chris Fine, executive director of Colorado Licensed. Beverage Association, which represents small alcohols. retailers and oppose all three. “People were realizing that these were billion dollar companies that were putting mom and dad out of business.”

A sign supports Propositions 125 and 126, regarding Colorado grocery store wine sales and liquor delivery services, at a King Soopers Tuesday in Englewood. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

But Proposition 125, which would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell wine starting next year, was too close to call. At 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, the measure failed by less than 1 percentage point.

If Proposition 125 passes, retailers licensed to sell beer could begin selling wine on March 1, 2023. That’s about 1,819 licensees in June 2021, according to the Department of Revenue. They can also offer beer and wine tastings.

It’s been almost three years since the grocery store stores started selling pure beer, made possible by a law passed by the legislature in 2018. Touted as a convenience for customers, it’s been a battle for small liquor stores that have managed to survive for the past three years.

In 2019, the first year supermarkets could sell beer, there was an immediate increase in the number of grocery stores getting licensed. Between 2017 and 2021, grocery and convenience store licenses increased by 17.3%, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue. The number of licensed liquor stores, meanwhile, has barely budged, even dropping a few over the same period.

At Fisher’s Liquor Barn in Grand Junction, owner Brandi Pollock said her store lost 25% of its business because shoppers bought more beer from grocery or convenience stores. The bone given to liquor stores was that they could sell food. That’s not why she’s in the liquor business, she says.

She thinks her store did better than others because it had a bigger selection of wines, and as a local owner she cultivates those relationships and looks forward to nurturing wineries, brewers and other makers. local beverage companies by putting their products on her shelves if she likes the taste. It’s harder for local startups to catch the attention of a corporate grocery chain.

“All stores in Colorado have done a good job educating our customers about this,” Pollock said. “I’m so thrilled that our customers, friends and family listened to our concerns.”

The other measures still affect local liquor stores, but in different ways. Proposition 124 would have immediately let a liquor retailer operate eight locations, out of the current three, and then have an unlimited number by 2037. Because it failed, existing Colorado law still allows for expansion, but much more slowly and not many. Liquor stores can add up to four locations in 2027. As of noon Wednesday, the vote total was 62.42% against and 37.58% for.

Measure 124 was primarily funded by Total Wine & More, which has three locations in the Denver area. The liquor store chain, which started as a single store in Delaware in 1991, now has at least 244 stores in 27 states, according to its website. He also donated $12 million of the $14.5 million raised by Coloradans for Consumer Choice and Fairness, which supported the liquor license initiative.

Tanner Stogsdill of Denver poses outside Nova Church on Downing Street near the corner of East 9th Avenue. He voted for all Democrats in the November 2022 election and said it’s important to vote to make your voice heard, especially at a time when political ads and politicians seem so divided and radicalized. (Flowers of Tatiana, The Colorado Sun)

Tanner Stogsdill, a Democrat who recently moved from Texas to Denver, voted against Proposition 124. He said large retail wine stores like Spec’s Wine and Total Wine dominate the Texas market. Stogsdill, a loyal customer of several small, family-owned Denver liquor stores, said he enjoys the small-town vibe at those stores, where local employees are friendly and attentive.

Take-out restaurant cocktails end July 2025

Meanwhile, Proposition 126 puts a stop to alcohol delivery by third parties like DoorDash and Instacart. While promoters had hoped the third-party allowance would help smaller liquor stores add the service if they couldn’t spare employees for delivery work, liquor stores can currently deliver liquor under existing law. They just have to use their own staff and stock the vehicles.

Because 126 failed, restaurants will end take-out liquor service in July 2025. The temporary pandemic allowance was intended to help restaurants survive COVID-19 closures and disruptions.

It was a blow to the Colorado Restaurant Association, which in a July survey found that 75% of its members would opt for third-party delivery.

“We are amazed and disappointed that Colorado voters did not appear to support their local restaurants through Proposition 126,” said Sonia Riggs, president and CEO of the association. “It is well known that restaurants have been one of the most devastated industries over the past two years and it is disheartening to see voters unwilling to help these businesses serve their customers responsibly. Without Proposition 126, takeout alcohol is set to expire in the summer of 2025, and this crucial revenue lifeline will be taken away from restaurants when they need it most. This will impact customer service, revenue, and the convenience consumers expect. »

Daniel Ramirez, co-CEO of Los Dos Potrillos, a Denver-area Mexican restaurant, said his small chain didn’t offer delivery and had hoped that if 126 passed they would change their menu to offer small bites and alcohol to take away. The restaurant will also open two more locations next year, including a fast-casual restaurant in Northglenn with a drive-thru pickup window.

“We just keep moving in the right direction, like we did in COVID,” Ramirez said. “You can’t win everything.

But restaurant owner Bob Starekow said take-out cocktails were definitely not popular for his Silverheels Bar & Grill and Kemosabe Sushi & Sake restaurants in Frisco. He doesn’t feel strongly about the measure, but has his own concerns.

“I myself had concerns about people taking advantage of it once you left the premises,” he said. “I’m not particularly a fan of packing cocktails and dealing with the issues of selling more drinks and making sure people don’t jump in their cars and pop a straw and drive 30 miles in the rural areas, where we are.”

30 million dollars thrown in the water

Proponents of the three alcohol measures outshot their opponents by more than 30 to 1, according to an analysis by the Colorado Sun. As of Monday, the promoters had raised nearly $30 million.

Wine in Grocery Stores supported the other two initiatives and received $4.8 million from Instacart, $3.8 million from DoorDash and $1.7 million from Whole Foods.

Keep Colorado Local, which opposed all three initiatives, spent nearly $760,000 through October 26, while raising $932,000 through November 5.

A sign supporting Propositions 125 and 126 on Tuesday in Englewood is a small part of an approximately $30 million ad campaign urging voters to pass the measures. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Fine, of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, said many of the 1,600 stores represented by her organization are people of color and speak English as a second language. Fifty percent are owned by women. The diversity within the property and their reach with small startups and local beverage makers in their communities is what Colorado is known for.

“As a state, we’re really proud to have this big, vibrant liquor market with the craft brewers and the craft distillers and the wineries along the western slope,” Fine said. “What I want to emphasize is these small businesses outside of retail liquor stores. Small brewers, artisanal distillers, wine estates. They depend on the local liquor store to sell their wines. They are not dependent on Kroger.

This is a developing story and will be updated as results come in.

Colorado Sun reporter Tatiana Flowers and Sun correspondent Sandra Fish contributed to this report.