Beer sales: Is it all froth or do we need change?

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Colorado Springs State Rep. Larry Liston is hoping the fifth time will be a charm.

This is the fifth straight year that the state Legislature will duke it out over a bill like the one he’s sponsoring, HB 1284, which would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer.

It’s hard to say whether the bill has a better chance of succeeding this year, but, regardless, there are some important factors to take into account — once again.

The Colorado Springs Business Journal supports free-market principals, and believes that in most cases legislation should not inhibit market forces, which is what’s at stake here.

Consider what the supporting and opposing parties have to say about the matter.

Liquor stores, which are the only retail outlets allowed to sell full-strength beer, argue that if grocery and convenient stores are allowed to sell it also, they’ll lose business.

They’re probably right.

There’s little doubt that if shoppers can pick up cases of Budweiser or Coors while stopping for bread and milk, they’ll make fewer trips to liquor stores.

Large-scale beer producers (let’s take Budweiser and Coors again) are leaping at the prospect of getting full-strength products into grocery stores, because that’s where mass buying already takes place and they’d stand to see increased sales.

Grocery and convenience stores, too, would see sales grow. More people would be drawn through their doors.

So is the idea to allow full-strength beer sales in grocery stores being driven by big beer and the grocery lobby?

Liston says the consumer is at the heart of his legislation. He’s been quoted as saying that Colorado’s liquor laws “annoy and confuse” consumers.

But are Coloradans really annoyed by going to liquor stores? Are they really confused about where they can buy beer?

One more point to consider is the argument that has arisen from craft-beer producers, who are by definition the smaller breweries that produce less than 6 million barrels of beer a year.

They say the legislation could hurt their sales because fewer people would be going to liquor stores and they have little chance of being stocked in grocery stores.

No doubt about it, beer-sales legislation is complicated.

Current law restricting full-strength sales in grocery stores is — and has been — shaping the market for years. It’s the law that has lent to the success of liquor stores.

Passing this legislation, on the other hand, will also shape the market. It could affect liquor sales. It could also cost jobs.

Liston’s bill was introduced last week and has only been assigned to the Economic and Business Development Committee.

We’ll see how it does.

3 Responses to Beer sales: Is it all froth or do we need change?

  1. So on the flipside a couple years ago the grocery stores were upset that liquor stores wanted to be open on Sundays. Now the liquor stores are complaining the grocery stores want a bit greater access. Doesn’t make a very fair argument.

    So, who’s going to start policing those little entrepreneurs who keep selling warm glasses of reconstituted powdered lemonade at $.50 a glass on the street corner? Not only are they operating a business without a license, not paying the appropriate government sales taxes … but I’m sure they don’t have the appropriate food/beverage handler health permits and are cutting into the grocery/liquor store’s market.
    Folks say liquor sales escalate during a recession due to a downtrodden economy and human propensity to self medicate — makes me wonder who in the adult beverage industry would like the economy to stay status quo in the name of increased market share and sales?

    March 25, 2011 at 10:55 am

  2. Liquor/beer/wine sales should be part of the free market system, with as little government intervention as possible. I cannot think of any good reason why a Coloradan cannot go to the corner store, or the Safeway, and buy full strength beer, or wine or liquor for that matter. The current laws just create a captive business for the licensed liquor stores. Of course they would oppose a dilution of their sales. If the micro-breweries want their market share, they should compete for it in the grocery stores just like they do in the liquor stores now. Let the free market decide. Get the government out of beer/wine/liquor sales.

    March 25, 2011 at 11:36 am

  3. Colorado liquor laws have been a joke ever since I first came here in the 60s. I never heard of 3.2 beer and back then they had 3.2 night clubs for 18 year olds.Guess that was Ok because drinking a pitcher only gave you a buzz and you were more likely to throw up before you got drunk on it.

    If you are going to allow alcohol sales, I think we should be long past playing with 3.2 beer period. Separating them is just a game. Either let all alcohol sales go through liquor stores or let groceries sell beer and wine – full strength.

    3.2 is pointless.

    March 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm