Group drops plans to put liquor sales at grocery stores on November ballot

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DENVER -- Forget about casting a ballot in November to allow grocery stores in Colorado to sell full-strength beer and wine.

On Friday, the organization that was pushing the ballot measure ended its campaign for change.

Many of the 1,650 independent liquor stores in Colorado worried about the impact to their businesses if all 390 grocery stores sold beer and wine.

A battle to bring full-strength beer and wine to grocers has fallen as flat as day-old beer.

"We all knew likelihood of passage was what we call a coin toss. Polling came in at 50-50 regardless of who polled,” said Jeanne McEvoy with Keep Colorado Local.

That group stood opposed to a ballot measure to expand wine and beer sales to all Colorado grocery stores.

"It's time to change the law. Give me and other small brewers more opportunity to grow our business," said the owner of Saint Patrick’s Brewery in Littleton, in a video airing on the Your Choice Colorado website.

But Your Choice Colorado abandoned its plan to take the issue to voters because of a new law, considered a compromise.

"With the legislation now in effect, we are working diligently to figure out how this law will impact both Coloradans and grocery stores," Your Choice Colorado campaign manager Georgie Aguirre-Sacasa said.

"While the bill isn't perfect and we continue to believe that Coloradans deserve better, it does change the old status quo and will allow people more access to the Colorado craft beer and wine that they love."

The new law allows grocery chains to sell liquor in 19 stores over the next 20 years. They will start with four stores each next year. Then, five stores every five years for 19 years.

Right now, they can only sell at one store. But they must first buy the liquor license of every liquor store within a 1,500-foot radius. Those liquor stores don't have to sell their license.

Also, there won't be full-strength beer at more grocery stores until 2019 — with no guarantee of wine sales.

"I think after a while we can still have a win-win with a phase-in of grocery stores," McEvoy said.

Keep Colorado Local said if voters had approved the ballot measure, it would have forced 900 liquor stores to close and 10,000 workers to lose jobs.

But Your Choice Colorado said it would have created 22,000 jobs, created $125 million in new craft beer sales and lowered liquor prices by 18 percent.

For now, the grocery chains say they'll wait and see what kind of impact the compromise law has on them and their customers.

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