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Colorado Governor Signs Bill Allowing Wine, Spirits And Full-Strength Beer In Groceries

June 13, 2016

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has signed legislation that will see wine, spirits and full-strength beer sales expand into grocery stores in Colorado, as part of a compromise struck with independent liquor store operators. Under the new law, grocery stores desiring new liquor licenses must purchase all existing liquor store licenses within 1,500 feet, or within 3,000 feet in towns with fewer than 10,000 people. Beginning in 2017, grocery operators in Colorado may hold up to five liquor licenses, up from the current limit of one license. That allowance rises to eight licenses in 2022, 13 in 2027 and 20 in 2032, before the cap is lifted entirely in 2037.

In a signing statement, Hickenlooper, a co-founder of Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing, said he favored retaining the status quo, but that the compromise legislation is “far preferred over periodic legislative threats to enact more far-reaching and sudden change.”

Applauding the compromise, the Distilled Spirits Council announced it would withdraw its two previously announced ballot initiatives, one of which would have raised the license limit to 10 licenses immediately. While Hickenlooper said he hoped a separate ballot push by a coalition of groceries led by King Soopers and Safeway would also be abandoned, at press time the grocers remained defiant, issuing a statement that they are considering “a legal challenge to this sloppy bill, or as planned, taking it to the ballot in 2016.”

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