Granby " Liquor stores ambivalent about proposal to allow Sunday sales
February 29, 2008
A bill snaking its way through the state Capitol is poised to stamp out one of two Colorado blue laws remaining in the state’s books.
Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, introduced Senate Bill 82 that would allow liquor stores to open on Sundays.
The bill passed the Senate and is on its way to the House for consideration.
“This is an important step for us,” said Veiga. “It’s time we move ahead as a state in the interest of Colorado consumers.”
But chain grocery stores such as City Market and Safeway are feeling jilted, unless the bill includes language that allows grocers to sell higher octane beer rather than the less potent 3.2 percent beer the laws dictate.
“If they open liquor stores on Sunday, it gives them a six-day monopoly over a seven-day monopoly (on alcohol), and could destroy revenue for grocery stores and convenience stores,” said Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association Spokesperson Sean Duffy.
The law reflects “no good public policy,” other than to penalize grocery stores, he said.
Just this year, a bill that would have granted grocery stores the ability to sell wine and “real” beer died in committee. Liquor stores successfully lobbied against the bill with the argument that allowing grocers the freedom to directly compete in alcohol sales would suck the air out of mom and pop liquor establishments throughout the state.
The grocery industry is now lashing back with the same argument. Allowing consumers to get their wine and beer in a liquor store on Sundays will hurt mom and pop grocers, unless they too can compete with the same product.
“We say, fair is fair,” Duffy said.
But Brenda Schoenherr, owner of Mountain Food Market, a “mom and pop” grocer in Grand Lake that sells 3.2 beer, doesn’t quite see it that way.
“I don’t see it affecting us all that much,” she said. “We don’t make that much off of it anyway. It’s just a service.” Selling beer in her store causes more headaches than gains, she said, in the amount of liability that comes with selling alcohol.
Management at Spirits-N-Things, Granby, also has mixed feelings about the bill for reasons concerning the grocery lobby.
If the grocery lobby succeeds in gaining the ability to sell “real” beer in their stores from a possible amendment to the bill, it could threaten community liquor stores, said Spirits Manager Jim Moeller. Larger grocery stores would be able to use their purchasing power to buy 48-case pallets of beer and thus out-compete small liquor stores, he said.
Liquor-store support of the bill mostly ranges from indifferent to luke-warm.
Some, such as Rich Bennett of Bottle Pass Liquors in Fraser and owner Keith Jenson of Kremmling’s Westend Liquor, recognize that opening on Sunday may capture more tourism traffic, but wonder if opening Sunday would only serve to spread business over seven days rather than six.
Right now, Mondays are a profitable day for Bennett’s store, he said. And Coloradans are “trained” to stock up on purchases on Saturday. Perhaps with a passed law, Saturdays and Mondays will be slightly slower.
Other liquor store owners appreciate the forced day off, free of competition, and contend that opening on Sunday may mean paying more employee wages.
Yet Scott Emery of Rocky Mountain Moonshine, for one, said he hopes the bill passes for the sole reason of supplying convenience to consumers.
The true proponents of the bill are consumers. Lloyd Cornett of Granby thinks modified liquor laws might stimulate the state’s economy and create more jobs, although he worries about the possibility of more DUIs.
“But if people are going to drink, they’re going to drink, I suppose,” he said.
Another consumer, Dave Bender of Granby, “absolutely” supports the bill. His day off is Sunday, “I don’t care for 3.2 (beer),” he said.
Currently, 34 states permit Sunday sales of alcoholic beverages. Since 2002, 12 states have re-examined their liquor laws and opted for Sunday liquor sales. According to statements in the Colorado Senate, data compiled by the Distilled Spirits Council suggests that in 2006, with 31 percent of stores open in those new states, sales of alcoholic beverages increased an average of 4.4 percent.
Colorado state law has banned liquor stores from opening on Sundays since Prohibition ended in 1933.
” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.