Will grocery store beer sales kill Vail Valley liquor stores?
Vail Valley liquor store owners are gearing up to fight what they see as a legislative assault on their business.A pair of legislators Sen. Jennifer Veiga, of Denver, and Rep. Buffie McFadyen, of Pueblo, both Democrats has introduced a bill that would allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer. Grocery and convenience stores can now sell only beer that has 3.2 percent alcohol by volume.Liquor store owners and their state trade association last year fought a similar proposal by the grocery industry by accepting a bill that allows liquor stores to stay open on Sunday.Grocery stores came back to the legislature this year, complaining that having liquor stores open on Sunday has crippled their beer sales.Jim Schrock, the general manager of Village Market, which has stores in Edwards, Telluride and Snowmass Village, said Tuesday he hadnt heard about the bill. But, he said, he thinks it could be a good idea. Its come up several times before, Schrock said. But I think it could be good for tourists and other customers.Schrock said people from out of state often arent aware of how Colorado liquor laws work, and selling full-strength beer would be a convenience for them.Village Market in Edwards doesnt sell beer, but the stores in Telluride and Snowmass Village do, and Schrock said hed be interested in selling the full-strength product.But one mans convenience is another mans really bad idea.Mickey Werner is the manager of Alpine Wine & Spirits in the Vail City Market store. Peter Struve owns Macs Liquors in Gypsum. Both think the idea to put full-strength beer in grocery stores would be bad for their business, of course. But both also said the idea could be bad for the community.Alcohol is, for all intents and purposes, a controlled substance, Werner said. And liquor stores are subject to extreme regulation by the state.Werner said he worries that grocery-store beer sales could lead to more people stealing and more minors illegally buying.Imagine spring break in Vail, Werner said. It would open the door to chaos.And, Werner added, if a grocery store is caught selling to minors, it can stay open and sell food even if the beer coolers are empty. If a liquor store sells to an underage buyer, the entire store gets shut down.I think we have a higher responsibility, Werner said.In Gypsum, Struve said hes worried about the future of his business if grocery stores are allowed to sell full-strength beer. Beer makes up most of the sales at Macs, and providing someone with the convenience of buying a six-pack while shopping for dinner would hurt, he said.If full-strength beer does end up in grocery stores, Struve said hes going to have to really concentrate on providing different products in different sizes for people who want something that isnt available at the supermarket.And, he said, his store has a couple of things grocery stores dont.Ill need great parking out front and multiple registers operating so someone can get in and get out, Struve said. And Ive got that.But, he added, Its really tough to be a mom-and-pop store these days.Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.