Follow Up


Three months in, Colorado liquor stores adjusting to wine in grocery stores

wine bottles
Posted at 9:47 PM, May 30, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-31 00:26:51-04

ARVADA, Colo. — It’s been nearly three months since wine hit the shelves in Colorado grocery stores after voters approved a ballot initiative in November allowing its sale beyond liquor stores. At the time, many liquor store owners expressed concerns over the change, and the impact they said it could have on local businesses.

We followed up with Ben Ammari, co-owner and manager of Vineland Liquor in Arvada. Before wine’s introduction into liquor stores, Ammari told us he and his team were preparing for the added competition by making some shifts in priority with their business. Now, three months in, he said the impact to sales has been roughly what he had anticipated, with wine sales at the store down about 20 percent and overall sales down about 10 percent.

“I think as it wears off, it’ll come back a little bit. I don’t think we’ll ever recover the 10 percent that we lost, but you know, if we have around five to eight percent, or something like that, it won’t be as bad,” Ammari said.

“The biggest test for wine is going to be the holiday season — anytime from October until about January, end of December — that’s when we sell most of our wines,” he continued. “That’s when we’re going to see if we really take a hit.”

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Vineland Liquor has adjusted its business strategy, leaning more into spirits and liquors, which have been growing in popularity. A report this year from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States found that spirits had taken the lead in revenue share among alcohol sales for the first time ever in 2022. That provides liquor stores, like Vineland, a protective buffer for the time being. However, Ammari and fellow owners now worry that the next domino to fall could be liquor being introduced to grocery stores.

“Honestly, we are afraid of that,” Ammari said. “I hope it doesn’t come to that. I hope the industry is happy with having the beer and the wine — you know, being able to have it anywhere — and I hope that we can just still have a little bit of control over the spirits being at a liquor store.”

For now, the team at Vineland is focusing on the areas it can control, building customer support through products and service that will develop loyalty for small family businesses.

“Obviously, it’s going to change. But we always adapt, right? Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here for 20 years,” Ammari said. “It’s been a battle, especially in the liquor industry. I don’t remember a year that came by that was easy, whether it was a new measure coming up, a new law change, a new liquor store that’s going to open across the street from yours, something like that. But we always find a way.”

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