Beer deregulation in grocery stores a challenge to smaller Boulder County retailers – The Denver Post

On their first grocery-run of the new year, many Coloradans and Boulder County residents were delighted to find that after decades of only being able to sell low-alcohol beer, the markets they frequent had the same brews that just days prior had only been available in liquor stores.

But not everyone was happy to see the change — for many small business owners around the county and state, it meant the end of a semi-protected industry that helped local shops thrive.

The consequences are already being felt, too, according to Eric Berg, the owner of Fox Creek Liquors in Longmont.

“The effect on my business has been extremely negative,” he wrote in an email. “I have had to cut a full time employee as well as reduce hours for the employees I have.”

Berg said that before 2019, beer accounted for 35-40% of his store’s revenue.

In Boulder, Ben Kobi, the general manager and beer buyer at Pettyjohn’s Liquor and Wine, said that his store has lost hundreds of monthly customers.

“Depending on what month — a lot of the summer holidays that people are buying beer for and barbecue food for, they’re already at the grocery store, so if they just need beer they can just buy it there,” he said.

During the introduction and debate of Senate Bill 16-197, which set into motion the process that ended with 2019’s repeal of the law prohibiting grocery and convenience stores from selling full-strength beer, State Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat representing downtown and north-central Denver who was a primary sponsor of the bill, acknowledged that immediate change could negatively disrupt the liquor industry in the state.

During a Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee hearing in early May, 2016, he argued that legislators should pass a law that would phase the state into new regulations, in order to avoid the possibility of voters deciding the issue through a ballot measure and enacting it right away.

“Because we have legislated these businesses to be small and vulnerable, there’s the possibility that if voters were to approve ballot initiatives, they would suddenly become vulnerable to the competition of much larger chain stores,” he said during the hearing.

Steadman also said at the hearing, though, that many Coloradans feel that the laws governing alcohol in the state are “antiquated.”