Liqour selections

Vail, Eagle County liquor stores concerned about ballot measure that would allow wine to be sold in grocery stores

Aaron Smith, salesman at Boone’s Wine & Spirits in Eagle, rings a bottle of wine on Wednesday. Like many local liquor retailers, Boone’s dedicates a good portion of its retail space to wine.
Nate Peterson/Vail Daily

A ballot initiative in the November 8 ballot would allow the sale of wine in grocery stores and convenience stores. Local liquor retailers don’t think much of the idea.

Jonathan Staufer has owned Grappa, a liquor store in Vail Village, for 20 years. Staufer said voters need to think about what they might gain or lose if the ballot measure passes.

“People think what they’re going to win is better prices and more convenience,” Staufer said. But the loss, he said, will be a decrease in the number of local retailers, all of which have worked hard to provide a good selection of products.

Like many retailers, Boone’s Wine and Spirits in Eagle dedicates a good portion of its retail space to wine. Boone owner Geoff Moser said selling wine at nearby City Market would hurt his local store and could lead to the loss of local jobs.

Moser said his store was hit by allowing grocery stores to sell full-strength beer. If wine sales are allowed, Moser thinks his clientele will suffer another blow.

“We will lose customers who thrive on convenience and don’t care about customer service,” Moser said.

Staufer said the entire wine industry could be hit by grocery store sales. Wine inventory in California grocery stores is dominated by large companies that sell wine under several different labels.

Allowing wine sales in Colorado grocery stores “will promote the commodification of the wine industry,” he said. “Instead of a universe of winegrowers, we will have bulk merchandise.”

Trent Olsen is the general manager of Riverwalk Wine and Spirits in Edwards. This store is right next to the Village Market grocery store, which doesn’t sell beer and probably won’t sell wine if allowed.

Olsen said he opposes the ballot measure, but understands if the average consumer sees the proposal as one that could make shopping more convenient.

But, he noted, grocery store employees won’t be able to provide the same level of customer service as a good liquor store. Someone who wants to pair a wine with a reasonably priced dinner probably won’t be able to get that advice in a supermarket.

Olsen said his store picked up a bit after grocery stores were allowed to sell full-strength beer. For one thing, a trip for a six-pack is much quicker to get to the local liquor store than the local supermarket.

Olsen, like Moser, emphasized the customer service element of his business. Moser added that there was also an element of security. In his view, it may be easier for an underage shopper to slip through the cracks at a grocery store than at his business.

“People will lose their jobs, their lives, all for convenience,” Moser said. “It’s a shame that this could happen.”