The Keep It Local Campaign has accomplished what many small business owners feared they would not be able to do: on Friday, July 1, Your Choice Colorado ended their campaign to push for all grocery stores in Colorado to be able to sell full strength liquor, wine, and beer. To many, this is a victory for small business.
Since 1982, Colorado has been able to keep the power of selling full strength liquor in the hands of small business owners, and not with the corporate giants. Colorado is known for being an entrepreneurial state, and for loving our small businesses. The last attempt at a vote over a similar ballot measure lost by on overwhelming majority to keep full strength liquor licenses for the small guy, and 3.2 alcohol, or “near-beer”, to the commercial grocery stores.
On Friday, June 10, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed legislation that gave small business owners some hope that they wouldn’t immediately lose their businesses to the commercial chains. The “phase-in” compromise will allow commercial grocery and retail stores to slowly acquire more licenses for their locations over the next 20 years, up to 19 new licenses per chain. The compromise law also requires grocery stores that will be selling full-strength liquor to buy the liquor licenses of any stores within 1500 feet. Many liquor stores and craft breweries are in favor of the bill for fear that if left to the voters, the new measures would be passed to immediately allow the sale of full strength liquor at major stores.
Craft breweries were afraid if Governor Hickenlooper did not sign the bill, their own distribution dynamic would have been greatly changed in a negative way. Their main concern over a full introduction of liquor into grocery stores was not being competitive enough for shelf space from larger manufactures, according to local media sources. And with newer breweries popping up every few weeks, it would make it that much harder for breweries to begin distribution networks and processes.
Passing Your Choice Colorado’s proposed legislation could have been disastrous for Colorado jobs. According to Keep It Local and the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, the new law would have immediately shut down roughly 900 small local businesses, at the cost of approximately 10,000 jobs if the ballot measure passed.
On the other hand, research funded by these retail chains and Your Choice Colorado reported that the immediate sale of full strength beer and spirits would have created around 22,000 new jobs, and 200 more grocery stores. The research, however, does not give a good idea of a time scale when these new jobs would become available, but the time scale for losing those small businesses is pretty obvious.
Many argue that Colorado is one of a few states not “getting with the program” and allowing commercial grocery stores to sell full strength liquor. If you ask me, I value my local businesses more than my corporate giants; it appears I’m not the only one, either. With Your Choice Colorado suspending their campaign efforts, small businesses can gradually adapt to the new market conditions instead of immediately dying from shock.