In session: State lawmakers looks at liquor, rent control, highway funding
February 4, 2009
Chain convenience store and grocery store owners are petitioning Colorado’s legislature to level the playing field when it comes to beer sales – calling the 3.2 near-beer they sell obsolete. Sales of 3.2 beer have fallen by 66 percent since liquor stores gained the right to open on Sundays last year, according to Sean Duffy, spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association. If you ask anybody, ‘Would you like real beer or 3.2 beer?’ most people will say, ‘I’ll take the real stuff,’ Duffy said. Our stores are stuck with a product consumers don’t want.If passed, a state bill in committee would eliminate the alcohol percentage limits on beer sold in Colorado.Sponsored by the house and senate, the bill finds the 3.2 mandate a remnant of Colorado’s Blue Laws – outdated and cause for economic hardship among grocers. The House Committees on Business Affairs and Labor is reviewing the bill introduced by Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, and Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West.At the Capitol recently, gas station owners and managers who led a petition drive at 7-Elevens and Loaf ‘N Jugs across Colorado including 7-Elevens in Grand County, showcased about 66,000 signed petitions asking the Assembly to allow the sales of full-strength beer at their stores. But opponents to the bill fear what the allowance would mean to independent liquor stores, saying such stores create jobs in Colorado. Jeanne McEvoy, executive director for the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, quoted in the Jan. 30 edition of the Colorado Statesman, estimated 700 liquor stores in Colorado would close within three years should the proposed law pass.Duffy pointed out grocery store jobs could be lost from dismal 3-2 sales if the present mandate continues. The beer law pertains not just to chain grocery stores that have been around in Colorado for more than half a century, he said, investing in local communities, but franchise stores such as 7-Elevens that are locally- and family- owned.Carole Jahn, owner of Plaza Liquors in Winter Park, dreads the affect such a law could have on her store, which only saw a marginal improvement in sales once the Sunday liquor-law passed. People who used to rush to the store on Saturdays now spread purchases between the weekend days, she said. I feel the money that the big grocery stores would receive would be going out of state, she said. It doesn’t do the community any good.Jahn also relayed concerns that underage monitoring could be compromised with young people selling to young people.The proposed bill states that employees who are 18 to 20 years of age would need to comply with the server and seller training requirements established by the state liquor enforcement division, or be supervised by a person who is at least 21 years of age. Duffy said checks and balances are already in place, such as Safeway stores with cash registers that won’t operate until clerks provide I.D. information on liquor sales, Duffy said. They (liquor stores) want to make a six-day monopoly over beer now a seven-day monopoly over beer, Duffy said. The simple fact is that they don’t want to compete.Meanwhile, some independent convenience store owners who’ve never sold 3-2 products are indifferent about the bill, such as Peter Gallo of Granby Mart. He plans to refrain from selling alcoholic beverages even if the law passes to avoid the mess of rules and regulations that come along with alcohol sales.
The town of Winter Park has shown interest in two pieces of state legislation. On Tuesday, the town council elected to send letters of support for a rent control and a highway funding bill.One is a bill that would clarify existing prohibitions on local government’s ability to control rent on private properties. In effect, the law would help to control rent on private residential housing in areas where housing costs threaten to drive out workforce tenants.The draft bill, introduced by Rep. Kathleen Curray, D-Gunnison, and Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, is presently in the house committee on local government. The bill states that local governments are permitted to enter into contracts with private owners to provide rent-controlled housing.Another bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne and Rep. Joe Rice D-Littleton, would find at least $200 million for Colorado transportation improvements and at least $250 million per year thereafter through fees, fines and surcharges.The draft bill proposes a road safety surcharge of $23.13, a bridge safety surcharge of $9.15, a daily fee on rental cars of $2, increased oversize vehicle surcharge by $79 to bring it to $159.20, and an increased late registration fee by $15 more, bringing it up to $25. The bill would create a Statewide Bridge Enterprise that would oversee bridge repairs and status and would increase Highway User Tax Fund allocations to counties and municipalities.The transportation legislation passed out of committee on Feb. 3.- Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail email@example.com.