Supporters and opponents clash at town hall over Colorado alcohol ballot measures | Elections


Business owners, lawmakers and activists clashed Thursday at a town hall that considered three ballot measures aimed at expanding the sale and delivery of alcohol.

The town hall — organized by Colorado Politics, The Denver Gazette, and The Colorado Springs Gazette — brought together supporters and opponents of Propositions 126, 125, and 124. Respectively, the measures seek to allow third-party businesses to deliver alcohol from restaurants, bars and liquor stores; allowing grocery stores and convenience stores that sell beer to also sell wine; and phasing out the limit on liquor stores operated by a single person or business.

Speakers from the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association and Denver’s Joy Wine & Spirits argued against the ballot measures, saying they would bankrupt small liquor stores, among other things, by increasing competition – a claim according to supporters n is simply not true.

“It’s really about convenience at what cost,” said Chris Fine, executive director of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association. “The underlying theme is that these three measures have billion dollar outside companies coming in and destroying little mommies and pops.”

“It really is a bloody story by liquor stores,” Michelle Lyng replied with the Wine in Grocery Stores campaign, which supports Props 126 and 125. Colorado records show that there are actually 10 more liquor stores today than there were then. … They make up numbers out of thin air to scare lawmakers, to scare voters into maintaining their monopoly.”

At various times, the opposition campaign argued that putting beers in grocery stores was not closing liquor stores because the COVID-19 pandemic had boosted liquor sales.

Campaigns for the three ballot measures — Wine in Grocery Stores and Coloradans for Consumer Choice and Retail Fairness — have collectively raised more than $17 million for their causes. The money was donated almost entirely by national companies, including Total Wine & More, DoorDash and Instacart, according to records from the secretary of state’s office.

In contrast, the opposition campaign, Keeping Colorado Local, raised about $635,000, including contributions from about two dozen local liquor stores.

Keeping Colorado Local said it represents all of Colorado’s 1,600 local liquor stores in the fight against the measures; however, at the town hall, Applejack Wine & Spirits CEO Jim Shpall said he supports Proposition 124 to eliminate the limit on liquor stores operated by one person or company.

“We want the opportunity to grow to be competitive,” Shpall said. “Right now the playing field is not level. Big box grocery stores, such as Walmart and Target, are allowed to have an unlimited number of stores that have wine, beer and liquor in their stores. … We’re not saying we’re going to grow, but we want it to be our choice.

Current law limits a person or business to holding only three retail liquor store licenses at a time – which will be increased to four by 2027. These limits do not apply to grocery stores that sell liquor. beer and, if Proposition 125 passes, wine. Proposition 124 would immediately increase the liquor store limit to eight, then to 19 by 2032 and remove the limit entirely by 2037.

Opponents said Proposition 124 would only increase competition for smaller liquor stores and benefit larger chains, such as Total Wine & More – a liquor store with more than 200 locations in 27 states, including the maximum three in Colorado. Total Wine & More owners, brothers Robert and David Trone, support Prop 124 and have single-handedly funded the initiative’s $5.7 million campaign.

“I only want one store and I speak for the majority of the 1,600 independent liquor stores,” said Carolyn Joy, owner of Joy Wine & Spirits, who opposes the three ballot measures. “I don’t have the capital to have additional stores. It takes millions of dollars to open additional stores. It does not create a level playing field. »

Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett, D-Denver, argued that liquor store owners should be more concerned about grocery stores than Total Wine & More, while supporting Proposition 124.

“There are more King Soopers and Safeways in Colorado than Total Wines in the whole country,” he said.

Garnett also criticized the idea that Colorado shouldn’t update its “outdated” liquor laws just to protect small liquor stores.

“Nowhere else in the market do we build in protection to prevent healthy competition,” Garnett said. “We don’t do it for newspapers, we don’t do it for florists, we don’t do it for cafes. I’m not sure why we do it for liquor stores…it’s against the Colorado way.

Other supporters have argued that the ballot measures would actually help small liquor stores — particularly Prop 126, which would allow third-party delivery companies, such as UberEats and DoorDash, to deliver liquor to stores. restaurants, bars and liquor stores.

Lyng with the Wine in Grocery Stores Campaign said Proposition 126 would allow small liquor stores to offer delivery services — which most cannot afford because current law requires liquor stores to provide their own vehicle and employees to make the deliveries. Major liquor stores such as Total Wine & More already deliver liquor to Colorado.

Restaurants in Colorado also strongly supported Prop 126 because it would permanently ensure the legality of takeout alcohol. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state passed a law temporarily allowing alcohol to be sold for takeout and delivery until 2025.

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“It allows small restaurants to generate additional revenue,” John Jaramillo, co-founder of the Hispanic Restaurant Association, said in support of Prop 126. “They’ve been hit pretty hard already by the pandemic. simply to compete with the big restaurants and ensure their long-term survival.

Besides mere competition, opponents of Proposition 126 have raised concerns that third-party delivery of alcohol would lead to underage drinking. According to the proposal, customers would have to upload a photo of a valid ID to buy alcohol, and delivery people would be required to scan the ID in person and verify that it is the good person. However, Fine of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association said he doesn’t believe delivery drivers will meet those requirements.

“You have seen these people. They are on a schedule. They throw things on a porch and they’re off,” Fine said. “They are not going through the required and necessary safeguards. … There is a security aspect. It’s our own vehicle, it’s our own employee because it’s our online permit.

Safety concerns have also been raised over Prop 125, which would allow grocery stores and convenience stores that sell beer to also sell wine. Fine said he doesn’t think grocery stores have the staffing capacity to properly verify IDs for wine sales.

Joy of Joy Wine & Spirits argued that wine sales would also hurt overall grocery store operations.

“There are already very long lines at the store and there is already a limited selection of food where I shop because it is densely populated and not a lot of square footage,” Joy said. “In terms of convenience, I don’t think it’s practical as a consumer to have a limited selection of wines without help and then have to check it out myself.”

“That’s our view,” Lyng of Wine in Grocery Stores countered, saying people will continue to shop at liquor stores for these reasons. “There’s room for everyone to compete here.”

Colorados will vote on all three proposals, along with eight other statewide ballot measures, in the Nov. 8 general election.

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