Colorado Senator Axes Bill to Allow Craft Beer Sales in Grocery, Convenience Stores

Colorado Sen. Kevin Priola

A Colorado state senator has pulled the plug on a proposed bill that would allow grocery and convenience stores in the state to sell craft beer, according to coloradoan.com. Sen. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson), the sponsor of the bill, stated that the legislation lacked support from the craft beer industry as well as from the House Business, Labor and Economic Workforce Development Committee, which was scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill yesterday. Before comments at the hearing began, Priola asked that the bill be postponed indefinitely.

It is the fifth time that a Colorado legislator has proposed a bill calling for the sale of beer in grocery and convenience stores to be legalized. Currently, only beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight (or 4 percent by volume) is allowed to be sold in grocery retailers.

While similar bills have included language that would allow those stores to sell any type of beer, Priola’s bill included two stipulations:  grocery and convenience stores could only carry beer made by breweries that produce less than six million barrels per year, and that contain less than 10 percent ABV. The first provision was intended to promote the sale of craft beer while effectively excluding products from the country’s largest brewers – MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The second would – according to Priola – avoid potential conflicts with wine and liquor stores because “the beers above 10 percent start to get closer to spirits and wine, [and] I don’t want to get into what liquor stores do and do well,” he told the Denver Westword News.

Although Priola claimed that the bill would be a boon for craft breweries in the state, the Colorado Brewers Guild (CBG), a trade group representing Colorado’s beer producers, has consistently come out against legislation that would allow sales of beer into grocery and convenience stores. CBG has held the position that Colorado’s independent retailers have been a critical part of the growth and popularity of craft beer in the state, and those stores would be at risk if large grocers began selling beer.

In response to similar bill proposed in 2011, CBG released an open letter that stated: “The current system of independent retailers has fostered a profitable structure for brewers and a diverse, beneficial market for beer lovers.  If altered to allow chain stores to sell full strength beer, those independent liquor stores that carry a diverse array of Colorado craft beer will be put out of business, reducing the public’s access to craft brewers’ products.”

Priola expressed his disappointment with the CBG’s stance on the bill, which he believes would enable many of the 161 craft breweries in the state to increase sales and production by giving consumers greater access to their beer, which is allowed to be sold in grocery and convenience stores in many surrounding states.

“I understand the craft beer folks oppose this bill, but it simply amuses me that the same companies they shut out of the market here are the same ones they currently do business with in other states,” Priola said before the hearing.