DENVER (AP/CBS4) – A plan to put full-strength beer in Colorado grocery stores by 2037 is on its way to the governor.

The complicated bill sets up a 20-year phase-out of Colorado’s unusual limits on grocery store beer. Grocers currently can have only one store in the state selling beer stronger than 3.2 percent alcohol, a limit that rules out most brands unless they make “near-beer” versions.

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The measure that passed Wednesday allows grocery stores to buy more licenses from neighboring liquor stores. Those supermarkets could also sell wine and liquor.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

It was the biggest rewrite of Colorado’s liquor code since Prohibition ended, and even if voters approve ballot measures allowing grocery stores to sell alcohol next year, the bill controls how the licenses are doled out; and under its terms many grocery stores won’t see a license for years.

If a liquor store is within 1,500 feet and refuses to sell its license, the grocery store is out of luck. Liquor stores will also be able to sell food.

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By 2037, any Colorado grocery store could sell beer, wine or liquor. The measure makes no provision for gas stations, which would not be able to sell full-strength beer.

Gov. John Hickenlooper isn’t ready to sign off on the bill. He said through a spokeswoman Wednesday that he wants to evaluate the economic impacts of changing the beer laws.

The governor has said before that he likes the status quo but will seriously consider a bill to allow full-strength beer in all groceries by 2037.

Colorado’s largest grocery store chains, King Soopers and Safeway, have said the beer bill doesn’t go far enough. The grocers say they may sue.

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