Full-strength beer in Colorado grocery stores impacting local liquor sales

DENVER – It’s been a month now since full strength beer hit the shelves of Colorado grocery stores and FOX31 is looking into the impact the new law is having on local liquor stores.

“People are going out of business,” Carolyn Joy, Owner of Joy Wine & Spirits said.

Many local liquor stores are on an up-hill battle, as their competition just got steeper.

“Seems to be a common thing in this country, it’s another win for Corporate America,” Jared Blauweiss, owner of Mr.B’s Wine & Spirtis said.

As of January 1st Colorado’s 3.2 beer law, a restriction from the Prohibition era – that restricted full strength beer from being sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, was no more. Customers can now snag a six pack as they fill up their grocery cart.

“Initially, I was pretty bitter,” Joy said.

Joy, owner of Joy Wine & Spirits has been a staple in the neighborhood for decades. Her father opened up the store, and pharmacy at the time, in 1963. But in the past month, she’s noticed a difference in sales.

“Now we’re flat so actually this is a decline for us. Our cost go up, cost of sales, all of those increases are happening but our sales are not increasing with that,” Joy explained.

Joy is not alone. Lee Earnhart, owner of Chambers Wine and Liquor in Aurora told FOX31, “Business is down, no doubt about it.” He estimates a nearly 10 percent drop for January. Mr. B’s Wine & Spirits off of Market street is also noticing a change.

“In terms of the Coors Lights of the World, and some of the more widespread craft breweries, even we have seen sales dip a little bit which is unfortunate,” Blauweiss said.

Meanwhile big box grocery stores in our state, are cashing in on the new law. A Safeway spokesperson said, “Customers have responded really well to the convenience of being able to buy full strength beer when they grocery shop. We are carrying 150+ Colorado craft varieties as well as domestics and imports. Our goal is to give customers variety.”

A spokesperson for King Soopers said, “Sales have been great. Our customers are loving their local craft beer and it shows, with over 45% of our sales being craft. We have a great selection of over 45 Colorado breweries represented, as well as 248 different Colorado local brews to choose from. Along with all the major domestic and import packages. Each store has offerings based on the unique neighborhood it serves.”

But the local stores said their vast and changing beer selection differentiates them from the competition.

“We get at least 20 new beers every week, where as a grocery store only changes their shelf set twice a year. So they’re looking at maybe five new beers every six months where we get new things all the time,” Blauweiss said.

Still, Joy is concerned that the results of this first month, under the new law, could foreshadow a troubling year as she provides for her family and employees.

“I have kids. I have a daughter going off to college. I’m a sole provider for everyone. I have a dozen employees – I want to support these people for the next 10, 20 years. I’m hopeful I can, but I do worry will it last or will it keep digging away?”

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