Sweeping Changes to Alcohol Sales Law in Colorado

For many years, a battle has raged on about Colorado grocers and larger scale retailers being able to sell at multiple locations throughout the state. To head off a potential ballot measure come November, Governor John Hickenlooper has signed into law SB 16-197.

The new law allows for a “phase-in”, where grocers and larger retailers can move from selling the less-popular 3.2 percent beer they can sell now, to selling full-strength beer. The law takes effect in January 2017 and further allows these businesses to sell in up to 20 locations over the next 20 years, whereas current law allows permits only one location per business to sell in the state. More sales in more locations can also mean more revenue for the state, as consumers will presumably have a better selection when doing their grocery shopping, so greater sales will be made at that time. More sales = more taxes.

While there have been opponents and proponents to the bill outside the halls of the Senate, the bill had bipartisan support, partially derived by compromises reached during the final days of this legislative session. Opponents have been voicing concerns over the impact it would have on “mom and pop” liquor stores, and the craft brew industry, and proponents have have assured those smaller shops that they too will benefit.

According to the bill’s enhancements, smaller shops and even the tiny corner drugstore would have the ability to have up to four licenses, and the ability to sell other items, such as fresh food products. Additionally, the bill has provisions that encourage (but don’t require) the buying of Colorado products, which would be managed under the auspices of a designated manager.

Even with this significant change taking place, Your Choice Colorado (an opponent to the legislation) is considering a ballot measure in November so voters can weigh in with their own opinion about what they would like to see on grocer’s shelves. It’s not certain if they’re pursue this measure, but supporters of SB 16-197, such as Keep Colorado Local hope they don’t. “This historic compromise protects local small businesses and Colorado’s unique craft brewing culture while allowing the phase-in of alcohol sales in grocery stores.”, states their Facebook announcement, following the Governor’s signing.

Only time will really tell how this new law impacts small businesses and consumers alike, but for now, it looks like at the very least, shoppers will have more choices when they’re picking ingredients for dinner.

If you need legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Small Business Attorney. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email: elizabeth.lewis@eclewis.com.

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