Area liquor stores remain in good spirits, despite grocery, convenience store full-strength beer sales | VailDaily.com

Area liquor stores remain in good spirits, despite grocery, convenience store full-strength beer sales

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
In January full-strength beer found its place on the shelves of grocery and convenience stores across Colorado.
Kristin Anderson/Vail Daily

Numerous chain grocery and convenience stores in Colorado began selling full-strength beer as of Jan. 1. Since then, local beer, wine and spirits shops say they feel the new law’s effect to a degree.

Kevin Brady, who previously worked decades in the wholesale wine and spirit industry before opening Cooper Wine and Spirits in downtown Glenwood Springs with his wife Sharon said sales of their Budweiser, Coors and Mexican imports were down.

However, craft beer sales remained consistent after grocery and convenience stores were allowed to carry the full-strength brews, Brady said.

The small business owner knew it was only a matter of time before stores like City Market and Kum & Go would be able to sell full-strength beer, as opposed to the former 3.2% alcohol by volume suds’ selection.

“We’re fortunate, too, because [Cooper Wine and Spirits] is set up with the fact that beer is less than a third of our business,” Brady said.

He explained that Cooper Wine and Spirits was instead in the “people business.”

“Our staff and myself have a clear understanding that we are to seek out and find other products that people don’t have. We’re not here to ride on the coattails of brands. We are here to take our consumers to a different level of taste experience,” Brady said.

He did mention, though, that Cooper Wine and Spirits’ wine sales were up and that its liquor sales were significantly up so far this year.

The new law that allows the sale of full-strength beer in grocery and convenience stores does not permit those outlets to sell wine or liquor.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary last year, Big Sids Bottles located on the south end of Glenwood remodeled its wine room in preparation for full-strength beer hitting grocery and convenience store cooler shelves.

According to Big Sids Manager Doug Bernes, the local beer, wine, and spirits store had also seen a slight decline in beer sales.

“What we’ve done, actually, is we’ve upgraded our wine selection. …More upper shelf wine has kind of helped us to offset the loss in sales,” said Bernes, who has worked as Big Sids manager for 19 years.

Bernes said that craft beers, Colorado ones in particular, were still selling well. However, out-of-state craft beer sales were a bit down for the year.

“A lot of our regulars are still sticking with us,” Bernes added.

Just a short walk from New Castle’s City Market store, New Castle Liquors knew its neighbor would one day be able to sell full-strength beer.

“We actually started preparing for it several years ago by diversifying and increasing our craft beer portfolio and expanding our liquor and wine selections, as well,” New Castle Liquors owner Scott Gauldin said. “The domestic decline has been noticeable … it’s definitely down, but we still have a lot of loyal customers.”

Gauldin said he believes New Castle residents tend to support small businesses, particularly in a community with a population right around 5,000.

“A lot of our customers appreciate the value of a mom-and-pop operation and the money staying in the community, which we tremendously appreciate,” Gauldin said.

Gauldin, Brady and Bernes also said they were thankful for employees’ hard work before and after the law took effect, and were equally appreciative of the loyal customer base.

mabennett@postindependent.com