Two months in: Liquor stores reflect on how law change has impacted business

Published: Mar. 1, 2019 at 9:42 AM MST
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Convenience stores and grocery stores have been able to sell full-strength beer for two months now, and some liquor store owners say they haven’t seen an impact on their business.

Up until Jan. 1, only liquor stores could sell full-strength beer. Grocery stores, like King Soopers and Safeway, were only allowed to sell 3.2 beer. Colorado’s

on New Year’s Day, giving some liquor stores that share parking lots with grocery stores extra competition.

“Safeway is 400 feet behind us, so we’re going to lose a little bit, maybe, for convenience,” Cheers Liquor Mart Owner Jack Backman told 11 News before the law changed.

But many liquor store owners say they haven’t seen a huge impact on sales.

“I think people just braced for World War III, and it wasn’t bad at all,” said Justin Roach, the general manager for Veterans Wine and Liquor. “It was actually pretty laid back. We have a very, very good customer base, and they just stuck with us. We’ve been doing great.”

Other liquor store owners said they didn’t see a big impact because they were prepared for the law change.

“My beer sales are about only 20-25 percent. I’m about 50 percent liquor,” said Gregor Huesgen, who owns Downtown Fine Spirits and Wines. “I basically planned for that in the last 3-4 years.”

Huesgen theorized that smaller liquor stores that rely more heavily on beer sales might be affected. Roach said he’s heard of a few closing, but he thinks there were other contributing factors.

“We noticed that some of the stores that have closed, it wasn’t just the grocery store,” he said. “It might’ve been previous business practices prior to that whole thing happening.”

11 News reached out to grocery stores like Safeway and King Soopers to see how the law change impacted their beer sales. Both chains said they could not release specific numbers for competitive reasons but said customers are responding well.

“Sales have been great,” a King Soopers spokesperson said in an email. “We are very excited to offer customers the convenience of one stop shopping that includes real beer.”

All the liquor store owners agreed that shopping local is better for the community.

“What the community has to see: we small liquor stores or privately owned liquor stores are supporting the community. We are supporting nonprofits,” Huesgen said. “A dollar spent in a local store stays in the community. A dollar spent at Kroger’s, which is King Soopers, or Walmart is going outside the community.”

The liquor store owners said they can also offer customers more variety and assistance than grocery stores can.

“We have great customer service. We have people help people in the store, which the grocery stores and convenience stores, you won’t really have,” Backman said. “We’re still here, and we’re competitive, and we’ve got a huge selection that they don’t have.”