Why a Maryland congressman has spent $1 million on a Colorado liquor license ballot initiative

As many as four alcohol-related measures could be on the November ballot as national chains clash with smaller liquor store owners in Colorado

Jesse Paul
Colorado Sun
Total Wine & More in Denver. The national chain wants to expand in Colorado.
Jesse Paul/For the Colorado Sun

Democratic congressman from Maryland and his brother, who together own the national Total Wine & More chain, have spent $2 million supporting a potential 2022 Colorado ballot initiative that would loosen the state’s liquor licensing laws and eventually let them open an unlimited number of Colorado stores.

U.S. Rep. David Trone and his brother, Robert, have each given about $1 million to Coloradans for Liquor Fairness, an issue committee backing Initiative 96. 

The measure hasn’t yet qualified for the November ballot — its supporters have until Aug. 8 to turn in about 125,000 valid voter signatures to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office — but if passed it would open the door for liquor retailers to be able to open an unlimited number of stores in Colorado starting in 2037.

Right now, liquor retailers are allowed to open only three stores in Colorado. Total Wine has two stores in Colorado and a third is opening soon.

Coloradans for Liquor Fairness has also benefited from about $400,000 in spending by Colorado Fine Wines & Spirits LLC. That money was used to pay a political firm that gathers petition signatures. 


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