Plan to get beer into Colorado grocery stores and gas stations expected in coming weeks

Colorado officials are being encouraged not to do anything rash ahead of supermarkets and gas stations starting full-strength beer sales in 2019.

Joseph Wheatfall power washes concrete around the Sinclair station on Colfax Avenue at High Street, Sept. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

colfax; gas station; dusk; cowx; weather; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado;
Beer, seen here from inside the cooler at Argonaut Wine & Liquor, Colfax and Clarkson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) beer; wine; liquor store; argonaut; capitol hill; denver; denverite; colorado; kevinjbeaty;
Beer, seen here from inside the cooler at Argonaut Wine & Liquor, Colfax and Clarkson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Colorado officials are being encouraged not to do anything rash ahead of supermarkets and gas stations starting full-strength beer sales in 2019.

A working group representing craft brewers, grocery and convenience stores and other alcohol purveyors voted this fall 13 to 9 — another nine did not weigh in — that “no substantial statutory changes or new licensing requirements” are needed before the state lifts the alcohol by volume cap for grocery stores and gas stations.

The Colorado Department of Revenue is expected to share a report for how to phase out 3.2 beer sales ahead of the 2018 legislative session. The department declined to talk about the report except to say it will be finished before the end of the year.

Colorado legislators voted in 2016 to allow grocery stores and gas stations to stock full-strength beer starting in 2019.  Before the law change, Colorado only allowed grocery stores and gas stations to sell beer with as much as 3.2 percent alcohol by weight or 4 percent by volume.

To help with the transition, lawmakers called for a group comprised of alcohol industry representatives to come up with “an implementation process for grocery and convenience stores to apply for a license to sell malt liquor and fermented malt beverages containing at least one-half percent alcohol by volume.”

Denverite reached out to several people on the working group and many declined an interview to talk about how they voted in September on 45 or so proposed recommendations.

Results from the state show the group downvoted (7-11) a proposal from the Colorado Brewers Guild that called for all recommendations provided in the report to be evaluated on whether or not they would hurt or help the craft beer industry. A proposal for a new “grocery a convenience store malt liquor license” also didn’t fare well (3-20). Nor did the ask for a process where “local community members may petition their local liquor authority for a review to be conducted before a current 3.2 percent licensee is allowed to sell higher-strength beer” (5-12).

One question the group had to answer was what happens to places in Colorado like Denver parks where 3.2 beer is currently allowed? Liquor folks opted for an all or nothing approach, voting 10-9 that the General Assembly should either prohibit or allow the public consumption of all alcohol. Cities and counties would be allowed to create rules of their own around public consumption.

The Colorado Licensed Beverage Association said in an email that the organization voted in support of every “sensible” recommendation.

“The only recommendation CLBA voted not to support called for the automatic and unregulated conversion of all existing 3.2 percent ABV licenses to malt liquor licenses. This would allow every convenience store and grocery store to sell malt liquor without any additional oversight, which was not the intent of SB 197 and conflicts with the recommendations of the law enforcement community,” CBLA said in the email.

The recommendation for no major changes or new rules came from the Colorado Wyoming Petroleum Marketers Association, 7-Eleven, Kum & Go Convenience Stores, CST Brands Inc., Circle K, Safeway, MillerCoors and the Colorado Beer Distributors Association, according to the state.

Subscribe to Denverite’s newsletter here.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.