A six-pack of full-strength Trippel Belgian Style Ale now sits on the shelf at Safeway in Cortez.
The ale, 8.5 percent alcohol by volume, sits alongside a 9 percent pack of Voodoo Ranger Imperial IPA.
City Market has heralded the new age of alcohol sales in Colorado with a smattering of signs that read: “Real beer now available in-store.”
The transition to full-strength beer in Colorado went into effect Jan. 1. The Colorado General Assembly in 2016 passed Senate Bill 16-197, which struck a provision prohibiting certain retail stores from selling beer and similar fermented beverages containing more than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight or 4 percent alcohol by volume.
“The 3.2 world is gone,” Cortez City Clerk Linda Smith said.
Smith, who oversees alcohol and marijuana business licensing, said Walmart, City Market and Safeway are now selling full-strength beer. Liquor stores are still the only place to find wine and spirits, however.
“For people that are wanting convenience, I would think they would go to the grocery stores and buy it with their groceries,” Smith said.
Connie Leighton, owner of Cork ’N’ Bottle for 11 years, said she expects her business might bring in less revenue with the additional competition from grocery stores, but she’s not panicking.
“At this point, I’m not worried, you know?” Leighton said. “I think most people are going to come in here and buy their booze. Nobody wants to walk to the back of Walmart to get their booze.”
She said older women who buy a 12-pack per month will probably keep shopping at the grocery store, but her regular male customers who come in after work will stay loyal. The experience at a liquor store is faster than a grocery store, she said, and people appreciate the customer service.
James Wilson, owner of West Slope Liquors for 35 years, was even more casual about the transition.
“I don’t know if it’s really going to help them that much at all to tell you the truth,” Wilson said, referring to grocery stores. “Most people I’ve already talked to go, ‘Well, I’m not going to stand in line and wait to get my six-pack.”
But Wilson and Leighton both said they hope for fairness in pricing. Wilson said he thinks it will be fair, but grocery stores have “so much pull.” He said he hopes the government ensures a fair shake for small businesses.
Leighton said she hopes liquor stores will get the same deals from distributors that grocery stores get now that both are selling full-strength beer.
Suzanne Karrer, a communications manager for the Colorado Department of Revenue, stated in an email to The Journal that wholesalers can charge retailers whatever they want, as long as it’s not below cost. Retailers and wholesalers are prohibited from selling below their invoiced cost, she stated.