Grocery stores to offer full-strength suds in 2019
Photo by: 
Kate Gienapp
Customers line up at High Mountain Liquor to purchase an assortment of alcohol before the holidays. Liquor store managers fear the impact of a new law allowing full-strength beer to be sold in grocery and convenience stores.
Customers line up at High Mountain Liquor to purchase an assortment of alcohol before the holidays. Liquor store managers fear the impact of a new law allowing full-strength beer to be sold in grocery and convenience stores.

It’s official. So-called 3-2 beer — otherwise known as “near beer” — will soon be a relic of the past at grocery and convenience stores in Colorado.

What’s been likened to a tourist trap in the state for those unfamiliar with Colorado’s liquor laws will come to an end Jan. 1 under a new law that allows for full-strength suds to be sold at those locations.

“You may have noticed expanded refrigeration sets in your stores with cold soda and sparkling water and thought that was strange,” said Adam Williamson of City Market Corporate Affairs. “Well those are the spaces that will have the great selection of full-strength beer and local offerings.”

Prior to 2019, the beer sold at grocery and convenience stores is limited to 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, or 4 percent alcohol by volume, leaving shoppers to seek out full-strength beer, wine and other spirits at liquor stores.

Now, said Williamson, customers can have a “one-stop shopping experience” — at least when it comes to purchasing beer and groceries. The new law will not change where you can buy wine and liquor. Only licensed liquor stores can sell those products in Colorado.

“Each store’s selection will reflect the unique neighborhoods and their buying preferences,”explained Williamson of City Market and King Soopers stores.

The changes to state liquor laws were part of an industry regulatory transformation first enacted in 2016 with additional legislation passed this year. The 2016 bill restricted the issuance of new drugstore and retail store liquor licenses, only allowing additional license under certain circumstances.

This year’s bill expanded upon those statutory changes and eliminated the limitation on maximum alcohol content for beer sold in grocery and convenience stores.

However, while the changes in liquor laws may be helpful for consumers, local liquor stores are expected to face greater competition as a result of increased offerings in grocery and convenience stores.

For Terry Morrow — owner of High Mountain Liquor, located across Main Street from City Market in Gunnison — the changes hit home.

“I think tourists will support it more than the local community because they’re used to buying it in the grocery anyway,” said Morrow.

Morrow currently has 10 employees at her liquor store and worries the new addition of full-strength beer at grocery and convenience stores could hurt business. While groceries such as City Market increase the available brews, the available staff will remain the same for chains looking to sell fullstrength beer, she speculated.

And if grocery store sales affect the bottomline for local liquor stores, then the number of staff employed at those momand-pop businesses could drop, she said.

“It’s so important to get it in everybody’s mind to keep shopping small,” added Morrow.

 

(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or kate@gunnisontimes.com.)