Supermarkets: Coloradans don’t want weak beer |

Supermarkets: Coloradans don’t want weak beer

AP PhotoMiller Lite and genuine draft packages chill in a cooler in a liquor store in southeast Denver, Colorado.

DENVER, Colorado ” With Colorado liquor stores now open on Sundays, supermarkets and convenience stores are pushing to be able to sell full-strength beer.

Owners say there’s little demand for the 3.2 beer they’re limited to selling and that liquor stores have an unfair monopoly on the sale of regular beer. Over 100 of them turned out at a press conference kicking off the effort on Tuesday at the state Capitol, where they delivered petitions signed by about 67,000 customers supporting the change.

State Rep. Buffie McFayden, D-Pueblo West, and Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, are sponsoring a bill that would convert existing 3.2 beer licenses to licenses to sell full-strength beer.

The bill is expected to be introduced in the coming days and then a public hearing will be scheduled. The proposal would allow supermarkets and convenience stores to sell only full-strength beer, not wine or other kinds of alcohol.

David Harper, the owner of a 7-Eleven in Colorado Springs, said he’s been losing between $600 and $1,000 in 3.2 Sunday sales since July, when liquor stores were first allowed to stay open seven days a week. He said some tourists staying at nearby hotels have even brought the beer back when they realized it was 3.2.

The weaker beer is sold in only four other states ” Kansas, Utah, Oklahoma and Minnesota.

“Why don’t we get rid of the obsolete beer?” he said.

A coalition of liquor stores and craft beer makers opposes the move. They worked together last year to pass a bill ending the state’s 75-year ban on Sunday liquor sales partly to fend off a bill that would have allowed supermarkets and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine.

Liquor store owners fear the latest proposal could drive about 40 percent of them ” about 700 stores ” out of business in the first three years. Brewers say beer selection could suffer if corporate buyers, rather than independent owners, are deciding which brands end up on the shelves.

Eric Wallace, president of Left Hand Brewery in Longmont and head of the Colorado Brewers Guild, said Colorado’s network of 1,650 independent liquor stores has helped foster what he said is the nation’s highest concentration of craft brewers.

“It’s a huge success story that’s endangered,” said Wallace, whose brewery doesn’t make 3.2 beer.

Harper said under the current law he can’t offer customers the selection they want because only a few breweries make 3.2 beer. As a franchise owner, Harper said, he has to stock the basic line of 7-Eleven products but, if the law is changed, he would still be free to offer whatever kinds of beer his customers wanted.

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