Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The future of Colorado brewers and independent liquor stores

Two Democratic legislators, in an effort to do away with 3.2 beer maybe inadvertently destroying Colorado's breweries and independent liquor stores. From today's Post,

The liquor retailers estimate 700 liquor stores would close in the first three years should supermarkets sell full-strength beer.

"This bill is not about customer convenience, it's about jobs, jobs, jobs," said Jeanne McEvoy, executive director for the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association.

Colorado Brewers Guild Vice President Eric Wallace said his group opposes the legislation for a different reason.

Colorado liquor retailers can only own one store, which makes it easier for local producers to form personal relationships and get their beer on more shelves, he said.

"The ways the laws are written now work very well for our state as an incubator" for craft breweries, Wallace said, adding Colorado boasts more breweries per capita than any other state.

This is legislation will destroy small independent businesses across Colorado. It absolutely should not become law. The bill's sponsors are shockingly naive about the consequences of their actions.

Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, and Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, said they're sponsoring the bill in an effort to end an "archaic product." Lower strength beer is only allowed for sale in grocery and convenience stores.

Five states, including Colorado, still sell 3.2 percent beer. And 36 states allow beer and wine sales in grocery stores.

"Almost every other state in the union has managed to make this work," McFadyen said.

With all due respect Rep. McFayden what do you mean by "work"? Chains of corporate liquor stores replacing hundreds of family owned businesses is not my idea of a policy that is "working" The decimation of a unique Colorado industry (craft brews) is not my idea of a policy that is "working".

If 3.2 beer is "archaic" as you claim then let the 7-11's and Safeway's of the world stop carrying them. There's no reason to overturn this apple cart and upset hundreds of family owned independent businesses across the state.


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

I deeply disagree with you on this one. 3.2 beer is an abomination created by outmoded laws.

There is also no rational basis for treating beer, wine and liquor marketing differently.

Beer and wine sales in grocery stores do not harm the consumer in any place that I have lived that has them.

Unlike media outlets, whose product quality suffers when diversity declines, despite divided liquor store ownership most liquor stores sell precisely the same thing.

Indeed, a decent sized liquor store chain is much easier to unionize than a whole bunch of liquor stores with one or two employees each. It's hard to unionize a single employee shop, while most of Colorado's supermarkets are unionized already.

Steve Balboni said...

I don't drink 3.2 beer and couldn't care less if anyone makes it or stocks it. The existence of 3.2 beer isn't really the issue. Rather the issue is should grocery stores, Wal-Marts and big liquor store chains replace the mom and pop liquor stores that are found in our neighborhoods.

Those neighborhood liquor stores don't employ that many people outside of the owners and their families. So I don't find the argument about organizing them peruasive. I'd rather those people stay as owners of their stores than become employees of Big Box Liquors USA, like mom and pop grocers and clothing stores when Wal-Mart comes to town.

I have several friends that are brewers and who own breweries and I really do believe that our vibrant brewing/beer scene is directly related to the access these brewers have to store shelves. Much of that access will evaporate when this bill becomes law and that would be a tragedy.