Local Liquor Shops Worry One Year after Wine Enters Colorado Grocery Stores (Colorado Public Radio)

Sarah Mulholland
March 6. 2024
Local Liquors - Silverthorne
Chris Carran, in the sweatshirt, stands with her family outside of the liquor store she's owned in Silverthorne since 2005. She says her store is down 30 percent in wine sales since the supermarket started selling it.

The beginning of March marked one year since supermarkets and other large chain stores in Colorado started selling wine because Coloradans passed a ballot measure that expanded grocery liquor licenses to include it.

Colorado’s liquor stores said they’ve seen a big drop in sales since grocery stores entered the wine market. The number of liquor stores in Colorado dipped slightly in 2023, but there doesn’t appear to be a mass of small shops going out of business, according to data from Colorado’s Department of Revenue.

Even so, a decline in foot traffic at local liquor stores can have ripple effects throughout the state’s alcohol ecosystem, which includes the distributors and producers that serve those shops.

While no one trend stands out from state data on liquor licenses or sales figures, it’s clear that the landscape is changing. Some stores have closed, but some are finding niches to survive while the dust settles around how Coloradans are buying their bottles of red for dinner. 

CPR News checked in with the different players in the industry to see how the change is playing out across the state.

Liquor Stores - Grape Expectations, Denver

Kate Conte’s family-owned Grape Expectations in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood for 24 years. She sold the store in January.

“We got to say goodbye to our customers, started notifying them in December, and what I wanted in the sale was that we could celebrate our 24th anniversary and that they would keep my staff. They ended up not keeping my staff, but we did end up having our anniversary party and just being able to thank our customers and recognize the impact on the community. So it was kind of bittersweet, obviously,” Conte said.

The new owner plans to keep it a liquor store. Conte isn’t sure what their business plan is.

We had discontinued a lot of the grocery store brands. I just didn’t want to compete with that market. We knew that they were going to come in and they were going to use it as a loss leader. I couldn’t compete on price and nor would I want to try,” she said. “It wasn’t the market we entered into and we didn’t really want to be a part of it anymore.”

Bottle Shop 33 - Denver

After nearly a decade in business, Bottle Shop 33 is shutting its doors on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s known for its display of vintage barware and friendly staff. In 2023, Westword named it Denver’s Best Liquor Store.

“The wine in grocery stores pretty much killed us,” said Rachel Eastwood, the buyer and store manager.

She really started to notice the drop-off over the summer.

“Summertime is the big time for roses and sparkling wines, but we didn’t sell a lot of roses. We still have quite a lot of them left over and they’re great for spring, but we just didn’t see people coming back for wines,” Eastwood said.

Wine sales at the store dropped about 20 percent during the past year, according to Eastwood.

“We don’t carry any wines that the grocery stores carry, so we were hoping that people would still come in, look for something interesting but the ability to just shop at the same place and not take two trips won out over wanting to just come in and find something different.”

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