Colorado Retailers: Full-Strength Beer Law Likely To Pass

DENVER -- Liquor store owners are bracing for round three of a legislative battle over beer, according to The Coloradoan newspaper.

House Bill 10-1186 would allow convenience stores to sell full-strength beer, rather than the beer with 3.2-percent alcohol volume now. According to the bill, c-stores have seen "significantly reduced sales and economic hardships" since liquor stores were allowed to open on Sundays, according to the report.

"This is first and foremost a fairness issue," said Mary Alice Mandarich, a lobbyist with 7-Eleven convenience stores, told the newspaper. "Once Sunday sales got passed, the playing field for convenience stores was no longer level."

When liquor stores were closed Sundays, consumers purchased 3.2 beer at grocery or convenience stores. In 2008, liquor store owners agreed to open on Sundays in exchange for elimination of a bill that would have allowed beer and wine sales in grocery stores. Liquor store owners maintain putting full-strength beer in convenience stores is a side door to eventually allowing sales in grocery stores, which Lemay Liquors Owner Dennis Jensen, of Fort Collins, Colo., said will put him out of business. Beer sales account for 55 percent of his business.

Without those sales, Jensen told The Coloradoan, "It is really difficult to think I could stay in business. If people can go to the grocery store and shop for their Budweiser, there wouldn't be much reason to come to my store."

Beer is the "bread and butter" for most liquor stores, said Monte Huber, owner of Fort Collins Warehouse Liquors. "I've come to the conclusion that whatever happens, happens," he told the newspaper. "I really don't think [convenience stores] really sold much 3.2 beer to begin with. So even if 3.2 sales were cut in half, that's not very big."

Beer is a profit center for c-stores, Mandarich said. "It's just common sense that when you're selling a product that only four other states in the country even have, you're not going to sell as much as the person down the street who offers the full-strength product.

"I think the liquor stores -- with their ability to sell so many different products -- should not be concerned about convenience stores selling only full-strength beer unless they want to maintain a monopoly in the market. That's in essence what they have right now."

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