A Proposed Bill Aims To Boost Colorado’s Independent Beverage Alcohol Retail Tier (Market Watch)

April 29, 2024
Argonaut Wine and Liquor

About a year after the Centennial State’s grocery stores began selling wine, liquor retailers are pushing legislation to level the playing field.

A proposed law in Colorado could help prevent the extinction of Colorado’s approximately 1,650 independent beverage alcohol retailers. Since a law permitting wine sales in grocery stores went into effect March 1, 2023, about 120 independent beverage alcohol retailers have gone under and thousands of jobs have been lost. “Family-owned and multigenerational businesses are folding,” says Mat Dinsmore, owner of Wilbur’s Total Beverage in Fort Collins, Colorado and president of Colorado Independent Liquor Stores United. “In Colorado, 60% of beverage alcohol retailers are owned by either women or those whose second language is English. This is the last bastion of the American Dream.” 

Total Beverage, a 40,000-square-foot beverage alcohol retailer in Thornton, Colorado announced on April 18 that it will close July 6. The Total Beverage in Westminster will remain open, but the Thornton store will be the largest beverage alcohol retailer in Colorado to close since grocery stores began selling wine. A significant number of independent beverage alcohol retailers in Colorado are also on credit hold. “That’s the kiss of death,” says Dinsmore, who also manages Wyatt’s Wet Good in Longmont. “Since COVID, wholesalers have more risk with retailers who are on the ropes. I have had great service and a great relationship with my wholesalers, but that hasn’t been the case for everyone.”

The proposed law—House Bill 1337—would prohibit spirits sales in grocery stores, force grocers to display alcoholic beverages in one location, eliminate predatory pricing, and remove the $2,000 cap on how much retailers can sell and deliver to restaurants. “It’s the first step to get things to a level playing field,” Dinsmore says. “We still have a long way to go.”

Josh Robinson, president of Argonaut Wine & Liquor in Denver, agrees the legislation is a starting point to saving Colorado’s independent beverage alcohol retailers. “HB 1337 is the only thing that is going to keep Colorado an independent market,” he says. “Without this legislation, all Colorado independent liquor stores have an expiration date. This bill would create a permanent separation between what grocers can do and what liquor stores can do in the market. If it passes there will be more positivity and investment into the retail tier than there has been in years.”

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