By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Supporters of a proposed initiative that would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine are buzzing over a recent poll that found 79 percent of Denver Business Journal readers favor such an initiative.
Meanwhile, opponents of the proposed measure say that public support will likely fizz out after all of the facts on the initiative come out, while adding that the survey isn’t an accurate representation of what Colorado voters want.
Blake Harrison, a Democrat candidate for State House District 8, is trying to bring an initiative to voters that would allow Colorado grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine. In an unscientific online opinion survey that was posted on DenverBusinessJournal.com, more than 875 people said they would like Colorado grocery stores to be able to sell full-strength beer, wine, liquor, or all of the above. The survey garnered 1,113 responses.
“That sounds consistent with what I’ve been hearing,” said Harrison. “I think people realize that it’s the fair thing to do and it’s common sense, too; people want to be able to do one-stop shopping.”
Ron Vaughn, co-owner of Argonaut Wine and Liquor, 700 E. Colfax Ave., believes a sample size of 1,113 is too small for the survey to serve as an accurate portrayal of what people want to see in Colorado. Ben Davis of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association (CLBA) — a group that represents retail liquor stores — added that a sampling of Denver Business Journal readers isn’t a fair representation of Denver voters at large.
And while Vaughn said that some shoppers would probably find full-strength beer and wine in grocery stores to be convenient, he doesn’t know how many people would still support the measure if they knew that it might put some of the smaller “mom and pop” liquor stores that they frequent out of business. The CLBA believes that allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine would close down 1,600 Colorado liquor stores within the first three years.
“I believe that as more information comes outÉthe less people will support it,” Vaughn said.
Harrison acknowledged that there is “no doubt liquor stores would feel the effect of this.” But he added that being concerned about the negative effects on liquor stores isn’t “any way to run government,” and that he is interested in looking out for the consumer.
“I think what’s lacking in this process is that consumers don’t have anyone sticking up for their interests,” he said last month. “The bottom line is that people want to get beer and brats at the same place.”
In their own survey conducted in August, CLBA found that only 38 percent of the 600 people they questioned said they wanted to see full-strength alcohol in grocery and convenience stores. CLBA believes the poll is more legitimate than an informal online survey, and that it shows the Colorado people don’t support an initiative like the one proposed by Harrison.
Davis, in turn, blasted Harrison’s initiative last month as being a poorly thought out political move.
“It’s a shame Mr. Harrison is putting Colorado jobs at risk with a campaign ploy that less than half the state actually supports,” he said. “I think the last thing we need is a legislator that is going to be a cavalier about Colorado jobs to get elected.”
Harrison’s initiative was heard last week in legislative council. Because the initiative is nearly identical to the bill introduced last year by Sen. Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, legislative council didn’t have too many comments or questions about the initiative’s language.
Harrison plans on waiting until after the new legislative session starts to submit the initiative to the Secretary of State’s office. He said he is meeting with all parties that would potentially be affected by the legislation, and is open to any ideas on how to make it better.
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters