Feb 182008
 
Authors:

Liquor storeowners breathed a sigh of relief last week after Colorado lawmakers killed a bill that would’ve given grocery stores authorization to sell hard liquor.

The bill, which would have permitted the sale of beverages above a 3.2 alcohol percentage in grocery stores, was opposed by many small liquor stores in the Colorado area, who said the bill would unquestionably hurt business.

Senator Brandon Shaffer drafted the bill so that grocery stores would have been authorized to sell liquor containing up to five percent alcohol on the floor. Even after his alteration to the bill allowing only beer, and no wine, to be sold on the floor area, liquor storeowners remained avidly opposed.

Since Bill 149 was rejected and small businesses’ concerns were heard, Senator Betty Boyd said the liquor storeowners have withdrawn their opposition to Bill 82, which allows liquor stores to be open on Sundays.

Since liquor storeowners were firm in their protest against Bill 149, they are now feeling obliged to tolerate Bill 82 and operate their businesses seven days a week.

“Initially they didn’t want either bill,” Boyd said. “As a result of the whole debate, they have backed off the Sunday sales.”

Boyd still sees future legislation allowing grocery stores to sell higher potency alcohol as inevitable.

“I believe that grocery store sales of wine and beer is something that is coming. It has already passed in 34 states,” Boyd said. “The reason I voted no (on Bill 149) was to give those small businesses time to adjust their business in order to be ready for it.”

Boyd said she hopes the time extension will give liquor storeowners a chance to pay off loans and work out business plans.

“Some time in the future I’m ready to vote yes. This year I listened to small businesses,” Boyd said.

If Boyd is right and future legislation is passed in favor of grocery stores, a seven-day-a-week operation may be something liquor storeowners need to ready for sooner than later.

Most liquor stores have come to terms with the added workday now that consumers don’t have access to hard liquor in grocery stores.

It is unlikely, however, that liquor storeowners will ever come to terms with grocery stores authorization to possibly sell hard liquor in the future.

“It boils down to the very essence of the thing; it is big businesses wanting to push small businesses out of business,” said Richard Schott, owner of Aggie Liquors in Fort Collins.

Compromise is something most liquor stores find to be worthless no matter what it is.

Liquor storeowners see compromises like the increase in liquor licensures to be of no worth in safeguarding small businesses.

“I don’t think that’s a compromise. I think that’s throwing a crumb,” Schott said.

Storeowners find that increasing the number of operations would do no good if one store can’t even survive.

The proposal of allowing liquor stores to sell non-perishable and perishable foods was also seen as a bleak amendment.

Because liquor stores have much smaller square footage than grocery stores, selling food along with liquor would not be much of an added convenience for customers.

Students’ reactions to Bill 149 being denied and the plausible ratification of Bill 82, which made it to the Finance Committee Wednesday, was generally supportive of small businesses but also hoped accessibility would not be a factor.

“I think that small businesses should be protected,” said Rebecca Brofft, a junior natural resources major. “I think there is already enough competition in communities to drive prices down.”

Spencer Wolfe, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, believes things are fine way they are.

“I would say keep it the same so they aren’t allowed to sell liquor on Sundays,” Wolfe said

Brooke Beardsley, a freshman psychology major saw no reason for consumers needing to have liquor available seven days a week.

“You can go one day with out buying alcohol, right?” she said

Although many alcohol consumers probably could go without the accessibility of liquor for one day, it is very likely legislation will pass so liquor stores won’t have restrictions on days to be open. If a bill is passed allowing this, liquor stores will have no excuse not to be open and most will have to give into the expectation.

Kaeli West can be reached at news@collegian.com

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