February 4, 2008
When prohibition was repealed in the 1930s, the Federal government gave each state the rights to its liquor laws. Hence, there are 50 different laws in fifty different states. In Colorado you cannot buy retail liquor on Sundays. Anyone owning a retail liquor license can have only one license, meaning only one store. In Colorado you cannot buy liquor in a retail store after midnight, nor can you buy it on Christmas Day. A liquor store cannot sell food and visa versa, a grocery or convenience store cannot sell wine, spirits or full strength beer. On the distribution side, Colorado is a mandatory three-tiered state, meaning that a third party distributor has to possess the product from manufacturer and sell it to a restaurant or a retail store. This adds an extra layer that the consumer ends up paying the price for. Colorado is also a sole source state, which means that there is only one distributor that can sell a specific product. To explain this better, in California if I own a restaurant or a store and want to sell a specific wine, whether it is from California or France, I can contact the producer directly and have them ship it to me, eliminating that third tier. If I am a producer of a wine or micro-brew, I can have a sales staff working directly for the production company, as well as a broker in specific areas say like San Francisco and then a distribution company that would take on inventory in another part of the state.Because Colorado laws are what they are, it has allowed us some special opportunities. One of the things I like the best is that small wineries that have limited quantities want to be in Colorado, not only because they want their wines on restaurant lists in Vail and Aspen, or that the winemaker gets to write a trip off to said resorts, (although there is that too), but because we have small distribution companies that focus primarily on resort communities. These distribution companies also focus on hand sell retail outlets where the small brands do not get lost with the Gallo’s and Mondovi’s.There is a Senate bill being drafted now that would change the law regarding grocery store liquor sales. It would allow any grocery store selling 51 percent of their business as food, and that has a pharmacy, to be able to sell wine and full strength beer, but no spirits. How they would get around the “only one license” issue is still beyond me. And this percentage of food sales would eliminate convenience stores and big box stores and the pharmacy issue would eliminate small grocery stores. Colorado is not the only state that will not sell alcohol on Sundays; neither do Connecticut, Georgia, Minnesota, Utah, South Carolina, Rhode Island and Virginia. But I know many retail stores would gladly be open on Sunday to keep alcohol out of Grocery stores. It is a law that would be detrimental to small retail establishments as well as to small distributors and in the end would seriously diminish the availability and diversity of product offered to the customer. Liquor laws are strange everywhere; don’t try to get a moose drunk in Anchorage, you’ll find yourself behind bars. And if you have friends in Kentucky, don’t send them wine for their birthday – it is a felony. In Texas, state law prohibits taking more than three sips of beer at a time while standing. So we in Colorado are pretty lucky really. If you like small production wines and the knowledgeable staff in small retail stores, please do us all a favor and contact your representative in the Senate and ask them to defeat the Grocery Store Bill. I would appreciate it, I enjoy doing what I do and don’t want to loose my business to big out of state grocery store chains. Thank you and cheers!Susanne Johnston owns Frisco Wine Merchant and can be reached at (970) 668-3153 or email@example.com.