New bill proposes Sunday liquor sales
February 2, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY ” A new bill being proposed by Sen. Jennifer Viega, D-Denver, could reverse 75 year ban and allow Colorado liquor stores to do business on Sundays.
Colorado has banned the sale of liquor on Sundays since Prohibition ended in 1933, and is one of only 16 states that still enforce the ban.
In addition to the Sunday sales bill, a second bill lawmakers are proposing would allow grocery stores to sell full strength beer and wine. Currently the only beer available in grocery stores is low alcohol “3.2” beer, which contains no more than 3.2 percent alcohol by volume. Most regular strength beer is about 5 percent alcohol by volume.
Colorado liquor store owners soundly defeated a Sunday sales and grocery store sales bill three years ago, and local Summit County liquor store owners are hoping the two can be defeated again.
“Sunday is my only day off, but if that is what the consumer wants we would be willing to do it,” said Frisco Liquors owner John Davis. “The real problem I have is that if grocery stores are allowed to sell beer and wine it will put us mom and pop operations out of business.”
Davis has owned Frisco Liquors for 25 years and recently sent an e-mail to Colorado Senators and State Representatives, urging them to vote against any changes to state liquor laws.
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“It took me ten years to build up this store and in the wave of a hand lawmakers could crush it,” said Davis. “Once grocery stores get their foot in the door it will put thousands of small liquor store owners out of work.”
According to the new bill, grocery stores that would qualify for beer and wine sales must have a pharmacy and food sales that make up at least 51 percent of gross sales, thus eliminating larger chain stores like WalMart or Target.
“First it’s the right to sell full strength beer, next grocery stores will want to sell liquor too,” said Dennis Leifheit, owner of Antler’s Liquor Store in Frisco. ” These changes would cause all those profits to flow out of state and it would really hurt us local guys.”
In addition to effecting local businesses, the two proposed laws could have significant social repercussion as it may provide easier access to minors looking to buy liquor.
“The real issue here is that any kid can walk into a grocery store as an unaccompanied minor, it’s not like walking into a liquor store where we take note of everyone who comes in,” said Leifheit. “Both laws gives young people a greater opportunity to have liquor available to them.”
Despite the resistance from local liquor store owners, some locals welcome the idea of Sunday and grocery store liquor sales.
“It’s about time,” said Marcel Arsenault of Silverthorne. “It seems a little ridiculous that liquor stores out here aren’t open on Sundays. I mean, don’t most people like to drink on the weekends?”
If passed, the two new laws could have a significant effect on local Summit County liquor store revenues, forcing local owners to reevaluate business strategy.
“If the consumers were really demanding these things then I could see how it would be an issue, but right now they’re not so why change at all,” said Leifheit.
Liquor store owners around the state are now getting ready to shift their attention to the capitol on Feb. 8 when the two bills will be heard by the Senate’s Business, Labor and Technology Committee.