By Melissa Garcia
DENVER (CBS4)– A referendum to put full-strength alcohol on grocery store shelves will no longer be on November’s ballot.
The initiative would have allowed liquor sales at all 1,600 of Colorado’s major grocery stores like King Soopers and Safeway.
A compromise reached between liquor and grocery store industry leaders in May will allow each major grocery store chain to sell liquor at only some of their stores.
Your Choice Colorado, the campaign backing the initiative to allow grocery stores across the state to sell liquor and full-strength beer and wine, announced Friday that it was pulling the measure from the ballot.
Ron Vaughn, co-owner of Argonaut Wine & Liquors, was among liquor store owners who were happy to hear the news.
“It would have been a race to the finish to see whether the ballot would have passed or not,” said Vaughn.
George Gatchis, whose family owns Capitol Hill Wines & Spirits, said the measure would have hurt business.
“It probably (would have been) tough for the little guy to negotiate a settlement or a buyout,” Gatchis said. “And a lot of little stores probably would have gone by the wayside and had to close their doors.
Per Senate Bill 16-197 signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper in June, grocery store chains across the state are allowed to phase in liquor sales over the next 20 years at 20 locations per company.
Grocers will have to pay a premium for their liquor licenses.
Grocery stores that have nearby liquor stores within a 1,500 foot radius will have to buy out the liquor stores’ liquor licenses in order to put the booze on grocery store shelves.
The compromise bill also changes state law in that liquor stores can now sell food.
Vaughn said that the trade off would not be easy but was better than the measure that could have been voted into law.
“Increased competition (is) not going to help,” said Vaughn. “But it was the best compromise that we could see, way better than 1,600 grocery stores selling beer and wine.”
In a statement, Your Choice Colorado said in part, “While the bill isn’t perfect and we continue to believe that Coloradans deserve better, it does change the old status quo and will allow people more access to the Colorado craft beer and wine that they love.”
In addition to the grocery stores that will start selling liquor in 2017, grocers will also be phasing out 3.2 beer to replace it with full-strength beer by 2019. All grocery stores will be able to get liquor licenses by 2037.