Wisconsin, Colorado Grocers Lobby For Change

colorado-canWe’re less than 48 hours into 2015 and already two legislative initiatives that would impact how craft beer is sold at supermarket stores are making headlines.

In Wisconsin and Colorado, grocery advocates are lobbying for changes that would allow supermarket chains greater flexibility when selling beer. In Colorado, one group is hoping to amend a current state law that restricts grocery stores from selling higher-strength beers. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, grocery stores are pushing for the ability to sell containers of draft beer to go.


The Wisconsin Grocers Association is hoping to garner support for a new law that would allow supermarket shoppers to purchase freshly filled 64 oz. growlers of beer.

Marlin Greenfield, the chief operating officer of grocery chain Festival Foods, told CBS affiliate WKBT-TV that customers would not be able to consume the beer on-premise, but instead fill jugs of beer to go.

“The industry, really around the country, has been moving in this direction,” he told the WKBT-TV.

Greenfield cited the increased awareness of craft beer as one motivating factor to push for change.

Currently, Wisconsin grocery stores with Class-A liquor licenses are allowed to sell pre-packed beer and liquor. A new law would expand their options, allowing supermarkets to pour draft beer for off-premise consumption only.

There is no current legislation in Wisconsin but an action alert posted to the Wisconsin Grocers Association website is calling on state residents “send a message” to their elected officials.


The Colorado Consumers for Choice (CCFC), a non-profit group representing the interests of supermarkets, is beginning to campaign for the ability to sell full-strength brews – those with ABVs higher than 3.2 percent.

Current Colorado state law only allows liquor stores and restaurants to sell all types of alcohol, while supermarket chains and convenience stores are restricted to selling “3.2 beer.” Currently, only one location in a supermarket chain can sell full-strength beer and other alcohol.

Chris Howes, a lobbyist with the Colorado Retail Council and the man tasked with heading up the CCFC, told Colorado Public Radio that liquor laws in the state are “antiquated, silly and just frankly out of date.”

To drive their message, the CCFC has launched a website that urges visitors to sign a petition.

“Since 1933, Colorado law has prevented grocery stores from selling real beer and wine,” the website reads. “Since then, the world has changed just a bit. We have invented soft-serve ice cream, deodorant, rock-n-roll, space travel, flat screen TVs, the Internet and the cellphone, but you still can’t buy real beer or wine in a grocery store in Colorado. It’s past time to modernize the state’s liquor code.”

The group is also actively promoting its message on Facebook, where a page has already attracted more than 30,000 likes.

It’s not the first time a Colorado lobbyist or lawmaker has attempted to change the state’s liquor laws either. In 2011, State Rep. Larry Liston filed legislation that would allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell the higher ABV brews. That bill – and others like it in four previous years — failed to pass.

The state’s craft brewers have previously opposed attempts to change the current law.

Bonus: A new Missouri law allowing drinkers to purchase single 12 oz. bottles of beer from licensed retail stores went into effect yesterday. Previously, store owners had to sell beer in packages of three or more. The bill, SB689, signed last June, was supported by the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

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