One year later: Liquor stores feel impact of law change

Published: Jan. 3, 2020 at 7:48 AM MST
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It’s been a little more than a year since Colorado’s

, which allowed grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer for the first time.

Before, only liquor stores could sell full-strength beer. Grocery and convenience stores were limited to selling beer with an alcohol content of 3.2 percent. The law changed


In the year since the change, local liquor store owners said they have seen an impact to their beer sales.

“We’ve noticed it’s been a lot worse than we thought it would be,” said Jack Backman, the owner and manager of Cheers Liquor Mart on North Circle Drive. “We were expecting 5 to 10 percent of our beer sales, but it’s actually been more than that, so it’s been worse than we expected.”

Backman said his store is changing tactics to keep customers coming in.

“We’ve upped our selection, more things that are hard to find,” he said. “We’ve lowered a lot of our prices to compete with them, and we’ve tried to ramp up our service with having somebody on the floor helping the customers.”

Backman said that’s one of the biggest differences between local stores and big chains: customer service.

“We stock our own shelves,” he said. “We have someone on the floor that’s knowledgeable that can talk to people about products and maybe help them make a selection where they do not have that at all. They have no one working in any of their beer departments. Not one.”

Other liquor store managers said the law change hasn’t impacted their business as much.

“We have noticed an impact, but it was not what we thought it would be,” said Justin Roach, the general manager for Veterans Wine and Liquor. “We still have a pretty niche selection and a really, really loyal customer base, so we have noticed a bit on the bottom dollar but not as bad as we thought we would in all honesty.”

Roach said he’s trying to stock beverages that grocery stores don’t or can’t have.

“What we did was we kind of figured out the gray area that a lot of products the grocery stores couldn’t carry like cider, and we have really upped our seltzer game too,” he said. “They can carry seltzers. We’ve already tried to carry a lot of smaller Colorado-based seltzers and stuff like that. Some local things, so that’s helped us out a lot.”

Even though liquor stores want customers to come to them, owners and managers said they understand why some people are choosing the grocery stores.

“There are a few customers that are falling off I just think as far as convenience goes,” Roach said. “If you get off of work, you got groceries to get, you just need to get a 6-pack of beer, I understand it’s easier to go over there and do that sometimes. I get that.”

But managers like Roach and Backman said it’s important for people to support their local businesses.

“All the money they spend at the grocery store doesn’t stay here in the local economy,” Backman said. “It goes to Ohio. It goes to California. It goes to Arkansas. It doesn’t stay here in the local economy like if you shop at the local merchant here that money does stay in Colorado and get spent back in Colorado.”