Liqour selections

Why local liquor stores are worried about 3 upcoming election metrics

In November, Coloradans will vote on three amendments and eight proposals, three of which independent liquor stores are watching closely. Propositions 124, 125 and 126, if passed, could bring big changes to Colorado’s liquor industry.

Proposition 124 (“Liquor Licenses”) would phase out the current cap of three liquor store licenses per business. Proposition 125 (“Wine in Groceries”) would automatically convert grocery store beer licenses to also include wine. Proposition 126 (“Third Party Liquor Delivery”) would allow gig workers to transport and deliver liquor without the need for a delivery service license currently required for retail liquor stores. According to the Colorado Secretary of State, none of these proposals will have a significant impact on state revenues or costs.

Support for these proposals has been largely funded by corporations and tech companies such as Total Wine, Target, Safeway, Kroger, Doordash and Instacart. These companies will benefit from a less regulated alcohol market, which will increase consumer convenience and lower prices. Last summer, Coloradans provided more than 110% of the signatures required to put these proposals on the ballot in November. When contacted for interviews about these upcoming measures, local grocery chains Marczyk Fine Foods and Leevers Locavore declined to comment.

Many independent retail liquor stores in Colorado oppose the measures and have banded together under the Action Coalition, Keeping Colorado Local.“[It’s a] David versus Goliath,” says Ron Vaugh, co-owner of Argonaut wines and liqueurs in Capitol Hill. “The other side has millions in the bank to spend on advertising and messaging where we independent business owners have to create a grassroots campaign. What they are doing is a land grab and responsible for the movement towards the homogenization of America.

Carolyn Joy is another small business owner speaking out. Joy has Joy Wines & Spirits in the Country Club area, which used to be a pharmacy until she bought it in 1995 and turned it into a wine, beer and liquor store in 2000. Although the pharmacy had a license to pharmacy liquor, Joy had to petition the neighborhood association and the city council to convert it to a full liquor license. She is frustrated that Proposition 125 automatically converts every beer license to a beer and wine license, circumventing local regulations she had to follow. “These are businesses that support their community,” says Joy. “They donate to every school event, to every charity. When you want to host a community event, I’m the person you go to. You’re sacrificing all of that and it’s just to line corporate pockets…it’s really about who do you want to support? And at what price?

Chris Fine, Executive Director of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, accept. “Colorado prides itself on being a craft state,” he says. “We appreciate keeping Colorado local.”

Fine’s organization represents Colorado’s approximately 1,600 independent liquor stores. He estimates that 66% of members use English as a second language and that 50% of network stores are owned by women. The vast majority of stores, he says, cover 2,000 to 3,000 square feet and are usually located in the same mall as a grocery store. “More often than not, it’s been mom-and-pop stores that’ve gone all out on this little piece of Colorado,” Fine says. “If 125 pass, we estimate 500 to 800 companies will go bankrupt just by flipping the switch.”

What’s been particularly shocking to retailers are the ever-changing regulations on alcohol sales in the Centennial State and across the country. In 2016, SB197 allowed grocery stores to start selling pure beer and put in place a moratorium on new liquor regulations for the next 20 years. Following this, Fine says retail liquor stores increased their selection of wines and spirits and doubled down on customer amenities such as easy-to-access parking, staff expertise and on-the-spot service. clientele while adhering to local neighborhood regulations on location, hours, alcohol delivery, etc. .

Fine says these proposals, especially 126 (“Third-party liquor delivery”) can pose public safety concerns. “There is no liability for these third-party delivery companies,” he says. “They could fire the gig worker, but Kroger won’t have his license revoked. And [delivery drivers are] will empty [the liquor] on the porch and leave.

Upstream of all these small businesses are the craft breweries, wineries and distilleries that could also be impacted. While independent stores may stock a wide variety of beverages from local producers, Target, Kroger, King Soopers often have corporate buyers who provide consistency in their stores, meaning they buy a smaller selection and more volume. raised. “Tons of us [independent alcohol businesses] are the lifeline for small local growers,” says Jordan Blayers, owner of Neighborhood wines and spirits in downtown Littleton. “For example, I store a wine produced by a 70-year-old Italian couple with only eight acres where they grow and bottle the wine themselves. They don’t have the quantity to sell to King Soopers.

Data from the 2020 US Census may help indicate what the future holds if these proposals are accepted. Beer and wine are sold in grocery stores in Georgia, Texas and Nebraska. While Georgia and Texas have caps for two and five liquor licenses per business, respectively, Nebraska allows unlimited licenses.

As of 2020, Colorado has nearly twice as many liquor, beer, and wine businesses, employs twice as many people, and pays triple the payroll compared to the other three state average. If Colorado’s numbers were to match the average of those three states, that could equate to a loss of 856 establishments, 4,551 employees, and $147 million in annual payroll (based on 2020 statistics).

Since large chains have the buying power to buy in bulk and can accept lower profit margins, consumers are almost guaranteed to see lower prices, increased selection at grocery stores and the convenience of delivery. by national companies if these proposals are accepted. But local businesses are not ready to stop fighting. “I don’t think we should give up; I am determined,” says Joy. “I know we can defeat these proposals – I’m convinced of that. It just depends on people understanding what it’s really about.