Opinion | Linda Harmon: Protect our precious business community | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Linda Harmon: Protect our precious business community

The other day when I went to the grocery store, I saw a young man collecting signatures for a ballot initiative. This issue was put together by a group called Wine in Grocery Stores and backed by large corporations such as Amazon, Walmart, Safeway, Target, DoorDash, Instacart and Kroger.

When I tried to talk to the young man about the nature of the petition, he explained he doesn’t care about the initiative, he only cares about getting paid to get signatures. I asked if he lives in Summit County, and he said no. His paycheck is funded by huge contributions from those large corporations. If this initiative passes it will allow large stores to convert their liquor license to deliver alcohol, without getting local approval. 

Chris Carran, owner of Locals Liquor in Silverthorne said, “It would also increase liquor licenses in our county by 24 licenses.”

You may think this sounds wonderfully convenient. The reality is this could put many of our amazing, locally owned liquor stores out of business. The Colorado Licensed Beverage Association believes over half of local independent stores will go out of business, and it will take the power of issuing new liquor licenses out of our local county government. 

Additionally, it has the potential of increasing underage drinking. Carron emphasized the increased danger of underage people purchasing alcohol thorough door to door deliveries saying, “none of these delivery guys will have liquor licenses. If one of my employee sells to an underage individual, they will get a $500 fine and additionally as the owner, I will get a very hefty fine. These delivery guys have nothing to lose so they don’t really care.”

Stores like Locals Liquor, Dillon Dam Brewery, Antlers, along with many others may not survive the reduction in business if this passes. These stores provide many local jobs, and they care a great deal more about Summit County than big corporations. Like so many other things in our wonderful community, they are part of our culture and our social structure.

The good news is the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association is backing a different ballot initiative. This one would require grocery stores that want to sell wine or spirits to apply to local authorities to expand their liquor license in the same manor a retail liquor store does. Chris Fine, executive director of the association, believes this would slow down the approval of large numbers of new liquor licenses because regional liquor license offices will be more in touch with protecting their local businesses. 

Currently liquor stores are limited to two licenses. If the large corporate initiative passes this will increase to four by 2027. In addition, liquor licensed drugstores, like CVS in Target and Kroger, can have eight licenses. After 2037 there will no limit.

Why does this matter? Because it would be nice, for once, if the fabric and personality of our community could be protected from huge corporate money overtaking our lifestyle. This is another blaring example of corporate greed run amok. In contrast, Locals Liquor like many of the other Summit County stores, has partnered with local breweries to produce numerous fundraisers for organizations like Summit Lost Pet Rescue and Summit County Rescue Group, to name a few.

Additionally, when you take the power of issuing liquor licenses away from local government, large nationally owned stores will be inclined to open stores in high tourism areas like Summit County. Carran said she is certain the “Wine in Grocery Stores” group is already addressing this with stores like Total Wine and Liquors, based in California. “To think they are not already negotiating on a national level with these types of stores is unrealistic.”

This will also hurt Colorado economically because, as Carran said, “these stores are based in other states, so their corporate income tax is not paid to Colorado.”

So next time you need a bottle of wine, think of the hassle of going to a crowded grocery store. Instead consider how wonderful it is to get on your bike or in your car to drive to your local liquor store and on the way take in the beautiful landscape of our lovely county. Then pat yourself on the back because you are helping a local business continue to be an important part of this special place.

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