Vail Daily letter: Update antiquated legislation
February 25, 2016
Chris Romer's Feb. 4 column is right on one key point — we should do everything we can to ensure that Colorado's unique craft brewing industry continues to grow and thrive. That is exactly why it's time to update Colorado's Prohibition-era ban on selling full-strength beer and wine in grocery stores. It's simple economics. More shelf space for craft brewers to sell their products equals more sales and more new customers.
Forty-two states proudly sell Colorado beer and wine in grocery stores, but in Colorado, local grocery stores are forbidden from selling Colorado craft beer — the best craft beer in the world. Every Vail Valley resident has a story about an out-of-state visitor who purchased beer at a local grocery store and didn't know they were buying watered-down or 3.2 percent beer instead of a quality Colorado craft beer. It just makes no sense.
Many local products have grown because of their exposure on grocery store shelves, such as Honey Smoked Salmon or Noosa yogurt. Colorado's brewers should have those same opportunities. Grocery stores can stock local brews in a single store or in many, which will reach new customers. An economist at the University of Denver predicts that a change in the law would lead to $125 million in more sales for the craft beer industry, which means more local jobs, and a positive economic impact for all of us.
Ignore the scare tactics that predict minors will have increased access to liquor. Selling beer and wine in grocery stores already occurs safely through the sale of 3.2 percent beer. Grocery stores have thorough ID-check procedures and protocols in place that liquor stores simply cannot match.
In fact, according to Colorado state records, liquor stores violate underage sales laws at a much higher rate because they do not have strict safety protocols like grocery stories.
Grocery stores and liquor stores can co-exist, just like they do in 42 other states, in part, because liquor stores retain the exclusive right to sell spirits — a product that is not part of this ballot initiative (despite what Mr. Romer says in his piece). Grocery stores and liquor stores already co-exist in the Colorado locations where each grocery chain is allowed to sell real beer and wine in a single store. In Glendale, for example, there are dozens of thriving liquor stores within a two-mile radius of two of those stores.
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The bottom line is that the current system is broken and stacking the deck against local brewers. Having full-strength beer and wine available in grocery stores is good for the craft brew industry, good for Coloradans and visitors alike, and good for the economy. Let's support our local brewers and update Colorado's antiquated and Prohibition-era laws.
Editor's note: The letter writer is a former member of the Colorado House of Representatives.
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