Colorado, the progressive outdoorsy beer mecca of America, is now allowing customers to easily find beer over 3.2 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) at grocery and convenient stores with the correct license. In typically bizarre liquor law fashion, Colorado’s old system, which ended in 2018, only allowed for liquor license holders to sell high-ABV alcohol at one location in the state, leaving most of the market to independent liquor, beer and wine stores. The law dates back to Prohibition, so yeah, it’s a little outdated. According to Colorado Public Radio:
About 1,000 stores statewide are expected to make the shift on day one.
“It’s overnight a doubling of the retail space, and it is going to be a new world for Colorado consumers,” said Andres Gil Zaldana, executive director of the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Bad for craft?
It should be noted that under the old system, many craft breweries and craft distilleries found both shelf space and success in these specialty high-ABV independent stores, so some small brewers are not especially happy about the change.
New system quirks
The new law requires that 20 percent of a grocery, convenience store or gas station’s revenue come from food sales. It also allows employees as young as 18 to sell beer. Something interesting: The new law now also requires retailers to choose between an on-premise license (i.e. consumption on site) or an off-premise license (i.e. consumption off site). Places can’t do both, which is odd.
Liquor stores are expected to be hit hard. There are some 1,600 in the state, but they will still be the only retailer allowed to sell wine and spirits — at least until 2037. In that distant future (when we will have surely destroyed the earth, fighting each other for booze in a Road Warrior-type society), any Colorado grocer, gas station or drugstore getting the proper liquor license from the state could sell beer, liquor or wine. According to the state.
The bill modifies laws governing the retail sale of fermented malt beverages, which will be synonymous with malt liquor as of January 1, 2019, as follows:
Effective January 1, 2019, prohibits a fermented malt beverage retailer’s employees who are under 21 years of age from selling, dispensing, delivering, handling, or otherwise having any contact with malt liquor for sale on or sold and removed from the licensed premises ( sections 3 and 11 of the bill);
As of the effective date of the bill, eliminates the fermented malt beverage retailer’s license type that allows a retailer to sell malt liquor for consumption both on and off the licensed premises and prohibits renewal of existing on- and off-premises licenses on or after that date ( sections 2 and 4 );
For fermented malt beverage retailer licenses authorizing the sale of malt liquor for off-premises consumption issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2019, the retailer: Must derive at least 20% of its gross annual sales revenues from the sale of food items; cannot sell malt liquor to consumers at a price that is below the retailer’s cost to purchase the malt liquor, with limited exceptions; cannot allow customers to use a self-checkout mechanism to purchase malt liquor; may operate under a single or consolidated corporate entity but cannot commingle purchases for multiple licensed premises to secure a better wholesale price based on total product volume purchased; and may deliver fermented malt beverages to customers of legal age under the same conditions applicable to retail liquor store and liquor-licensed drugstore licensees ( section 4 );
As of the effective date of the bill, prohibits the state and local licensing authorities from issuing a new fermented malt beverage retailer’s license authorizing the sale of malt liquor for off-premises consumption or allowing a fermented malt beverage retailer to relocate its licensed premises, if the licensed premises is or will be located within 1,500 feet of a licensed retail liquor store; for a premises located in a municipality with a population of 10,000 or fewer, within 3,000 feet of a licensed retail liquor store; or for a premises located in a municipality with a population of 10,000 or fewer that is contiguous to the city and county of Denver, within 1,500 feet of a licensed retail liquor store ( section 5 );
As of the effective date of the bill, precludes issuance of a new fermented malt beverage retailer’s license or the relocation of an existing fermented malt beverage retail licensed premises if the building in which malt liquor will be sold is located within 500 feet of a school, unless an exception applies or the local licensing authority or local governing body authorizes an exception within its jurisdiction ( section 7 );
Prohibits the sale of malt liquor in a sealed container by a fermented malt beverage retailer on Christmas day ( section 11 ); and
Requires a licensed fermented malt beverage retailer to check the identification of its customers who attempt to purchase malt liquor to verify each customer is at least 21 years of age ( section 11 ).