To sell full strength beer and wine in grocery stores or not, the debate is still on

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The debate on whether or not full strength beer and liquor should be sold in grocery stores is still heated.

Colorado ranks third in the number of craft breweries per capita, but it’s one of the only states that does not allow craft beer to be sold in grocery stores. One group is hoping to change that.

“In 42 states you can buy and sell Colorado craft beer and wine in grocery stores but right here where they’re brewed, you can’t and we fundamentally feel that for a number of reasons right now is the right time for a change in our prohibition era laws,” said Matt Chandler, spokesperson for Your Choice Colorado.

Using statistics from a recent study by an applied economist at the University of Denver, Your Choice Colorado said the change could bring more money to Colorado’s craft beer industry.

“What he found was that allowing full strength beer and wine in Colorado grocery stores would

potentially add up to 22,000 jobs and generate an additional $125 million for the Colorado craft beer industry through sales,” Chandler said.

But not everyone is convinced.

“There’s about 287 small, independent, local brewers like myself across Colorado and much of the reason that Colorado is the state of craft beer is because of the small, independent, local distributors,” said Steve Stowell, owner of Triple S Brewing Company in downtown Colorado Springs.

Such as mom and pop liquor stores.

“It’s the large grocery store chains that are pushing to do this,” Stowell said. “It is likely that they would just hit the easy button and they would use a lot of the large, regional breweries so kind of cutting out all of the small guys.”

“We do have a number of stores in our coalition who are backing this but I think you know what’s really important is the impact of what this would mean for not only the Colorado consumer but the craft brew industry,” Chandler said.

Comparisons are being made between Colorado craft beer sales and the sales of other states.

“Safeway and Kroger sales in local craft beer in Oregon and Washington are well over $100 million. That is something we’re really interested in bringing here to Colorado,” said Chandler.

But Stowell says that’s because craft brewers in those states grew up having relationships with grocery stores.

“Here we don’t have that,” Stowell said. “We’ve had this 3.2 beer law for quite some time. It would be a radical change from the norm that again would prevent the small, independent, local guy from getting his beer on the shelves.”

He said the best part about craft beer is that it’s always about quality, not convenience.

Ballot proposals are being filed to end the ban on full strength beer and wine sales in grocery stores for a potential statewide vote in November 2016.

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