Some local businesses hope liquor license ballot measure fails

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/31/22

Mollie Stephans walked into Westminster’s Pecos Liquors to pitch Loveland Aleworks’ newest beer. The answer she got was promising.

“We’ll be in touch,” said Jazz Singh, the owner of …

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Some local businesses hope liquor license ballot measure fails

Posted

Mollie Stephans walked into Westminster’s Pecos Liquors for the first time to pitch Loveland Aleworks’ newest beer. The answer she got was promising.

“We’ll be in touch,” said Jazz Singh, the owner of the store since 2018.

Stephans is one of the small brewery's 10 employees. She makes sales calls to local liquor stores up and down the Front Range, asking that they put Aleworks' beer on shelves.

The personal touch is what makes the company unique, she said. But the owners the Aleworks said that may need to change if voters approve Proposition 124 in the upcoming election. 

The ballot initiative will increase the number of retail liquor store licenses an individual may own. The current maximum is three. The number would rise to eight by 2026, 13 by 2031, 20 by 2036 and be unlimited by 2037. 

With the increase, large retail stores like King Soopers, Safeway and Total Beverage would be able to sell alcohol in more locations. Opponents of the measure argue that will funnel business away from the local and neighborhood stores.

“It’s hard to tell ahead of time, but we will almost have to change the way that we sell our beer and change the things we pride ourselves on,” Stephans said. “One big thing for us is we want to keep Colorado as local as possible.”

Most of Loveland Aleworks’ accounts are local liquor stores. That's because they're able to meet with owners directly. When they get a green light from a store, it can happen on the spot or shortly after. But getting their product onto the shelves of a big chain is a different matter. It can take about a year for an approval, if one comes at all.  

For liquor store owners like Singh, the proposition changes the liquor store experience and that's a reason to vote against it, though he understands some people want the convenience of buying alcohol while shopping for groceries. 

He also understands hardworking owners’ motives to expand and open new locations. He said he works 15-16 hours ever day of the week and hopes to expand his business, but emphasizes how smaller stores are more responsive to customer choices than big chains. 

A decent selection of microbrews isn't always easy to find in big chain stores, he said.

For his store, those less-well-known beers sell well and the relationship between the local brewers and local shops is vital to the region's economy.

Singh pointed to 2019 when the legislature gave grocery stores the OK to sell beer. He lost business due to increased competition and heard the same from other local store owners, including one in Commerce City that lost two-thirds of its revenues almost overnight.

Who’s for it?

According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s website, Colorado Fine Wines & Spirits LLC, addressed in Bethesda, Maryland, donated over $11.5 million to the issue committee supporting the initiative. 

It’s the same address as Total Wine & More, which is owned by U.S. Rep. David Trone from Maryland. Total Wine & More, according to reporting done by the Colorado Sun, spent over $2 million supporting the measure. 

A spokesperson for Total Wine & More said it would be “correcting a gross imbalance in current law.” 

The Colorado Chamber of Commerce also supports the measure. In a news release, they wrote Proposition 124 would allow liquor stores to open more locations.

“Colorado has been long overdue to rethink the way we approach liquor licensing,” said Colorado Chamber president and CEO Loren Furman in a release. “This is about helping some of our hardest-hit businesses recover from ongoing economic challenges while also giving consumers more options when it comes to how and where they choose to purchase alcohol. Together, these common-sense ballot initiatives will help bring Colorado’s alcohol regulatory environment into the 21st century.”





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