Colorado grocery stores can sell full-strength beer Jan. 1 |

Colorado grocery stores can sell full-strength beer Jan. 1

Eleanor C. Hasenbeck
Steamboat Pilot & Today

Whole Foods Market at 261 Lusher Court in Frisco. The grocer withdrew its application for a liquor license in July amid local opposition.
Hugh Carey /

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Pour one out for 3.2 beer. At 8 a.m. Tuesday, grocery and convenience stores across Colorado will be allowed to sell full-strength beer.

Current liquor regulations limit these stores to selling beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight or less, but regulatory changes are coming into effect. The Colorado state legislature voted to amend liquor laws in 2016 with additional legislation in 2018.

“We’re excited to offer our customers full-strength beer,” Safeway spokesperson Kris Staaf said. “This is something that they’ve been asking for for a long time, especially in communities like Steamboat, where you’ve got a lot of tourists coming in. They might be coming from another state where there’s beer, wine and spirits in a grocery store, or local craft beer. For our customers, this is really, really exciting.”

After the ball drops at midnight, stores will be allowed to receive deliveries and begin stocking shelves with full-strength beer, but beer only. Malt liquors, wine and spirits must be purchased from liquor stores.

“We have pretty much all hands on deck as far as our employees as well as with the brewers, just making sure that we have that product ready to go by 8 a.m.,” Staaf said.

She said Colorado Safeway stores have been preparing for the change for more than a year. The switch to selling higher alcohol by volume beer is one of the reasons Safeway made changes to its store layout.

The store aims to sell through its remaining inventory of 3.2 beer to make room for full-strength beer next week.

Staaf said Safeway will offer a selection of beer from brewers “small, large and everything in between.”

“Our customers are interested in supporting local products, whether that’s produce or meat or beer,” Staaf said. “We want to make sure that we’re able to offer local breweries, local products. The mix in Steamboat might be different than the mix in Fort Collins or the mix in Denver. It’s really highlighting local breweries in the communities that we have stores.”

Local liquor stores are waiting to see how the change will impact them.

“I think it’s probably going to have some impact,” said West End Liquor owner John Seymour. “I’m lucky because I am not located near big grocery stores. I’m also lucky because I have a really loyal customer base, so I’m hoping that it will be minimal, but I know they’re going to do everything they possibly can to make sure all the liquor stores suffer as much as possible, so we’ll see. We’re hopeful, but a little bit wary for sure.”

Greg Stetman, an owner at Central Park Liquor, said the store doesn’t know what to expect from the regulatory change.

“Obviously, we’re well aware of it,” he said. “All we can do is sell it cheaper than everybody else and hope for the best. We’ll know a lot more in a month.”

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