This was a complex and challenging issue and I would say everyone but the large grocer’s would have preferred the law remained unchanged. That being said change is inevitable, the grocery store ballot initiative was polling consistently above 60%, there were also 5 additional initiatives that were tied to the original, the Main one being an incredibly dangerous piece that would have drastically and permanently changed the landscape with no regard for the thousands of businesses in Colorado that where established under the existing law. Effectively putting as many as 70% of Colorado’s independent liquor stores out of business overnight and choking off Colorado’s craft beverage alcohol manufacturers path to market and decimating our industry. While 197 is not perfect it does a number of things that help preserve Colorado’s craft culture:
- It is phased in over 20 years
- It gives proximity protection to retails that are near grocery stores
- It requires a local buyer and local warehousing
- It gives value to existing retail license by requiring that grocery stores buy out two before they can receive theirs.
- Perhaps most importantly it keeps the law in the legislator where it has the opportunity to be modified as needed.
This was a can that had been kicked as far down the road as possible, the grocer interests are not going away. Perhaps the ballot initiative could have been defeated this year (very unlikely) but they would have redoubled their efforts next year or the year after until it was passed. Any initiative they would have put forth would be patently unfair and designed to give them an unfair advantage and eliminate competition.
So while 197 is not perfect it is historic and is an excellent starting point that minimizes the threat of unfair competition, helps even the playing field, providing the convenience Coloradans are asking for, looks after our craft culture and provides protections for small businesses as the rules change in the middle of the game.
With the majority of states allowing wine and beer sales (44) in grocery stores and a large number allowing liquor, wine and beer everyone involved including the CDG felt it was a matter of when not if this was going to happen and SB16-197 was the proper vehicle to get out ahead of the issue.