Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Grocery stores push for full-strength beer

Grocery and convenience store owners are renewing their push to sell beer exceeding 3.2 percent alcohol, Soggy Coaster's colleague in Denver reports.

It would require a change in state law, and a bill is expected to hit the floor of the Legislature next week. As it stands now, grocery and convenience stores are prohibited from selling full-strength beer, leaving it mostly to locally owned liquor stores.

The Colorado Brewers Guild, of which all four Durango breweries are members, opposes the bill.

There are many considerations here: liquor stores provide jobs and some may close if they lose their monopoly on full-strength beer. Some liquor stores have fantastic beer selections and those may also fall by the wayside. On the other hand, liquor stores have an unnatural monopoly that economists would surely scoff at. In essence, state law currently protects liquor stores from competition.

Oregon's example may be instructive. That state has a thriving craft beer industry despite allowing grocery stores to carry full-strength beer. The grocery stores there carry most of the big regional brewers like Deschutes, Widmer and Bridgeport. But good luck finding special releases or smaller breweries in grocery stores. That's where specialty beer stores come in. In cities like Portland and Eugene, beer stores thrive. Belmont Station and John's Market in Portland and The Bier Stein in Eugene offer expansive selections.

If the law passes and Colorado grocery stores do in fact get to sell full-strength beer - a big if - Soggy Coaster isn't persuaded that it necessarily spells doom for Colorado's small beer retailers.


  1. Just the crappy ones, like those in my denver neighbourhood that charge $10 for a ska six-pack. I would welcome the change, and would visit the good stores and never again set foot in the crappy ones. Those folks employed by the crappy liquor stores can either work in a grocery store or find a new place to watch bad TV all day.

  2. One would hope that this won't spell doom for small liquor stores in the state. They are already upset with giving up their only day off on Sundays for little to no gain. I tend to side with the breweries. Too much risk that chain stores will dictate our beer taste and stock mostly macro and ignore many of the smaller local breweries. Can't help but think businesses will shutter and put some people out of work.

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