Local liquor stores prepare for 2023 hit as wine land in corporate retailers
Just a few years after Colorado voters passed a measure to allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer, liquor stores across the state are bracing for the next hit as wine will be allowed on shelves under the same malt beverage license starting in January.
Several local liquor store owners said on Wednesday, Dec. 28, that their stores are going to feel the hit when larger chains like City Market, Walmart, Kum & Go and Loaf and Jug start carrying wine along with beer after the new year.
Proposition 125, which will allow retailers with a malt beverage license to carry both wine and beer, was passed in Colorado in November three years after retailers could start selling full-strength beer.
Currently in Craig there are six retailers that have fermented malt beverage licenses, which will allow beer and wine sales starting in January, and there are five licensed liquor stores.
Across the state, there are currently 1,562 licensed retail liquor stores and 1,834 fermented malt beverage retailers, which are grocery stores and convenience stores selling beer and other fermented beverages such as seltzers.
“This is just one more thing they’re taking from us,” said Lori Gillam, who has owned Stockmen’s Liquor for 19 years with her husband Lennie.
In 2019, when the measure was passed to allow beer sales in retail stores, liquor store owners were told that wine sales would be left alone, GIllam said. Now that wine is legal to sell in grocery stores, she can see liquor following soon. Gillam said that small shops struggle to compete with corporate stores.
City Market corporate representatives didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Walmart representatives could not confirm whether all its Colorado locations, including Craig, will start selling wine in January.
“We’ll definitely feel the change,” said Ryan Duran, who owns East Side Liquor in Craig. ”We felt it when beer went into local grocery stores, and I think we’ll feel it again.”
Duran said that East Side is starting to bring in more micro-brews and other products the grocery stores don’t carry, so he may take the same approach and carry a different selection of wines than grocery and convenience stores will carry.
East Side is not the only local shop that’s planning to adjust to compete with grocery retailers. Loadout Liquors’ new owners have been doing improvements and will be adding a drive-thru and tastings, and Gillam said that Stockmen’s may downsize its wine selection.
Dark Horse Liquor owner Becky Peed said that she isn’t going to make any big changes in the products Dark Horse carries because the inventory is already driven by requests from regular customers.
“That’s one good thing about us not being a chain,” Peed said. “People come in and ask us if we can order a certain wine that they found while they were visiting family in Idaho. We can start carrying it, and then other people try it and start buying it too.”
Peed, who has been in business since 1997, said that Dark Horse has felt the effects of grocers carrying beer, especially during the busy times. She said she noticed that some of the hunters who normally come in every year didn’t come in this year.
Because retailers have only a few alcohol vendors to purchase products from, local store owners worry about being able to keep their prices competitive.
Gillam said that corporate stores like Walmart and City Market can often sell beer without any markup because they make up the difference with the other grocery products, where alcohol sales are the liquor stores’ livelihood.
“What people don’t realize with corporations is that once they are the only ones left selling those products, the prices will go up,” Gillam said.
Corporations typically have specific quantity standards for products they carry, making it difficult for micro-breweries and small wineries to get their products on the shelves and in front of customers at big chains.
Gillam said that a hit to small family-owned liquor stores will have a wider impact than people may know. In addition to the amount of jobs and local revenue provided by these local businesses, most local liquor stores support the community through sponsorships to clubs, events and nonprofits.
Over the years, local liquor stores have built up regular customer bases, and that’s what Peed and Duran both said they hope will ultimately make the difference for the future of the liquor store industry.
“Shop locally as much as you can,” Duran said. “With all small businesses, all the revenue generated here stays here; we’re not sending it out of state.”
Gillam stressed that small businesses are fully invested in the community and urged people to keep supporting the small businesses that are supporting the community.
In November, Colorado voters considered two other ballot measures related to alcohol sales, which both failed. Proposition 124 would have increased the number of liquor licenses an individual or entity is allowed to have in Colorado.
Proposition 126 would have permanently allowed bars and restaurants to offer alcohol take-out and delivery, but now liquor stores remain the only license that permits alcohol deliveries.
Out of the five liquor stores in Craig, Sister Liquor located in the Centennial Mall is the only shop that currently has a delivery permit filed with the state.
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