Wine in grocery stores, other liquor law changes on Colorado’s 2022 ballot

Retail chain, app-based delivery services spend millions on ballot measures that would ease regulation

By: - August 30, 2022 4:20 am

A worker collects grocery carts outside the King Soopers in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, on Nov. 24, 2020. The store was the site of a previous COVID-19 outbreak. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado voters will decide this November whether to approve three major changes to the state’s liquor laws.

The Colorado secretary of state’s office said Friday that backers of three ballot measures — Initiatives 96, 121 and 122 — submitted enough valid petition signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.

Initiative 96, which would gradually abolish limits on the number of liquor stores that could be owned by a single entity, cleared the bar by the highest margin, submitting 225,400 voter signatures, nearly 150,000 of which were projected to be valid based on a random 5% sample. To qualify for the ballot, initiatives must submit a number of valid signatures equal to at least 5% of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for secretary of state in the previous general election — a threshold of 124,632 signatures in the current election cycle.

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Campaign finance reports show that an issue committee in support of Initiative 96, Coloradans for Consumer Choice and Retail Fairness, has received nearly $1.8 million in funding from just three donors: U.S. Rep. David Trone, a Democrat from Maryland and co-founder of retailer Total Wine and More; Trone’s brother and co-founder Robert Trone; and Colorado Fine Wines and Spirits, a corporation that shares an address with Total Wine’s Maryland headquarters.

Under current Colorado law, a person or business can only hold licenses for three retail liquor stores at once. Under a bipartisan law passed in 2016, that restriction is gradually being loosened, from the previous limit of a single license to a maximum of four by 2027.

Initiative 96 would drastically expand that timeline, raising the limit to eight immediately, increasing it to 19 by 2032 and abolishing it entirely by 2037. That would clear the way for expanded operations in Colorado for retailers like Total Wine, which operates more than 200 locations nationwide.

Millions from Doordash and Instacart

Initiatives 121 and 122 qualified for the ballot by a narrower margin, with 142,697 and 139,311 projected valid signatures, respectively.

Initiative 121 would allow grocery stores to sell wine under a new category of liquor license. Currently, Colorado grocers are only allowed to sell beer and other malt beverages.

Initiative 122 would allow third-party delivery of alcohol, eliminating a requirement that liquor stores only deliver alcohol to their customers directly, using their own vehicles and employees.

The latter two initiatives are backed by a single issue committee, Wine in Grocery Stores, which has received nearly $4 million in contributions. Nearly all of that total — about $3.7 million — has come from app-based delivery services Doordash and Instacart, while retailers like Target and Safeway have contributed the rest.

A committee opposing all three ballot measures, Keeping Colorado Local, registered with the secretary of state in June. It’s received $156,000 in contributions from a number of independent liquor stores, as well as $70,000 in support from the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, the trade group that represents the state’s 1,600 licensed liquor stores.

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Chase Woodruff
Chase Woodruff

Reporter Chase Woodruff covers the environment, the economy and other stories for Colorado Newsline.

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