DENVER (CBS4) – A state Senate committee came up with a compromise in the fight to get full-strength beer and liquor into more Colorado grocery stores, but it looks like some grocery stores won’t support it.
The bill was supposed to replace the ballot measures, but Your Choice Colorado — the group pushing the ballot measures — says it has no intention of dropping them. One of the lawmakers carrying the bill told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd it’s a fragile deal that could still fall apart.
The Senate passed a bill that would gradually allow grocery stores to begin selling full-strength alcohol. Each grocery chain would get 20 licenses over the next 20 years, and unlimited licenses after that. They would have to buy their first two licenses from liquor stores. If they’re located within 1,500 feet of a liquor store, they couldn’t get a license unless that liquor store agreed to sell its license. The bill also allows for liquor stores to sell food and other products.
“Over time it does bring a new era,” said Jeanne McEvoy, who represents Colorado’s more than 1,600 liquor stores.
McEvoy says two ballot measures that would allow grocery stores to sell full-strength alcohol next year would have destroyed 60 percent of liquor stores overnight.
“I’m not sure the voters who have recently moved here in the last 20 years truly understand what the devastation would be,” she said. “Convenience there, but at what cost?”
“We shouldn’t just flip a switch and change the rules overnight,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver.
Steadman single-handedly brought most of the parties on board, but he admits King Soopers and Safeway are holdouts and the ballot measures aren’t dead yet.
“I don’t think that’s the right way to modernize an industry in a market that has been highly regulated and legislated for over 80 years ever since prohibition ended,” Steadman said.
Your Choice Colorado released a statement saying in part, “We have no intentions of altering our plan to take this issue directly to Colorado voters in November.”
Steadman says they’re bluffing.
The bill goes before the House on Tuesday with just two days left in the legislative session.