LETTER: Why the compromise on Colorado liquor laws makes sense


In was disappointing to read the Aurora Sentinel’s editorial on Senate Bill 197, the bipartisan compromise legislation on Colorado’s liquor laws.

It’s important to remind Sentinel readers that liquor stores are small businesses, with deep roots in their communities, paying taxes, hiring employees, working with other local small businesses and, most importantly, serving our customers. We are not backed by large, out-of-state corporations, nor are we able to continually take time, resources and money away from our businesses to fight the “beer wars” at the state Capitol and now at the ballot box.

So speaking for the more than 1,600 small, independent liquor owners across Colorado, let me provide the reasons why we joined with almost every Democratic and Republican legislator, nearly a dozen other coalition partners and large stores such as Walmart to pass SB 197.

First, we did not support SB 197 because store owners are unhappy with existing law. We supported SB 197 because it is far better than the ballot initiatives proposed by the out-of-state grocery store chains. The grocery stores boast that they plan to spend $24 million or more to push their initiatives. If this is the case, they probably will be successful this November.

Our small businesses simply cannot compete financially with these out-of-state interests, so we asked the Legislature to help craft a long-term solution that protects small businesses but also provides grocery stores a reasonable and measured way to expand their alcohol sales. This happened in SB 197.

Next, and let’s be clear: The grocery store ballot initiatives are just the opposite of SB 197. It’s a winner-takes-all approach. If the ballot measure passes, overnight more than 390 grocery stores across Colorado would be able to sell full-strength beer and wine, which represents more than 80 percent of a liquor store’s sales. Literally, hundreds of local businesses would go under. Not a single part of the ballot initiatives take into consideration the impacts to liquor stores and other businesses. How is that good for consumers and our state’s economy?

SB 197 and its phased-in approach is far better than the ballot measure, and it is far better for Colorado small businesses, consumers, craft makers and other stakeholders across our state. That’s why nearly every legislator voted for this bill — and why we are asking Governor John Hickenlooper to sign SB 197.