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Push for Colorado grocery stores to sell wine returns, but liquor stores fear impact

Capital Hill Liquors
Posted at 4:25 PM, Feb 20, 2022

DENVER — Shopping for wine in Colorado could potentially get a lot easier, but it may come at a cost.

The Colorado Retail Council is working on a ballot initiative to give voters the choice this November to add wine to places licensed to sell beer and make home delivery easier, its president Chris Howes says.

Shoppers Denver7 spoke with Sunday outside a King Soopers are in favor of the idea.

"It would make sense to. I mean, I don't see why they couldn't since they sell beer," Adam Phillips said.

Since 2019, grocery and convenience stores in Colorado have been able to sell full-strength beer, which used to be limited to liquor stores.

George Gatchis, whose family has owned Capitol Hill Liquors for years, says that change made a huge impact.

"Our sales in beer probably dropped by 50%, if not around there, 40 to 50%," he said.

He's worried giving grocery stores the power to also sell wine could kill his family's livelihood.

"It would put us out of business," Gatchis said.

Right now, wine can only be sold in liquor stores like Gatchis' or up to five stores per grocery chain around the state.

"They go buy the groceries, buy their beer there. Now, they're gonna buy their wine there," Gatchis said. "Why come here?"

It's already hard competing with grocery stores because of their cheaper beer prices, he says, so small mom-and-pop stores like his need people to come in and shop, even if the prices are a bit higher.

"What are we gonna sell, spirits only? Vodka, bourbons, scotches, things like that? We can't survive on that, you know?" Gatchis said.

Mark Scibel, a King Soopers customer, says this potential change will force liquor stores to be more competitive.

"If the taxi cabs can put up with Uber and Lyft, then the liquor stores can put up with wine," he said.

Howes says the council has been working on putting wine in grocery stores for more than 10 years. It has until March 23 to nail down the ballot language. If approved by the Title Board, the council will need to get more than 124,000 valid signatures for it to appear on November's ballot.