Legislators talk liquor laws at Littleton brewery

Democratic legislators expect changes to go to voters

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Two Democratic state legislators came out against the proposal to allow liquor sales in Colorado grocery stores during a Dec. 10 town hall meeting at Locavore Beer Works in Littleton.

“Grocery stores knew all along they couldn't, but now they're saying that's not reasonable, that's not fair,” said Rep. Daniel Kagan, who represents Sheridan, Englewood, Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills Village, parts of Littleton and unincorporated Arapahoe County. “… There is a liquor store on every corner. Do we really need more outlets to get liquor? I don't think so.”

Sen. Lucia Guzman, of Denver, the new minority leader, agreed, saying the proposal would put small businesses at a disadvantage.

“It's good for the customer because it's convenient, but my heart and soul goes to the small wineries and breweries,” she said. “Coors and the other big brewers are wonderful, but they're going to make it. What I care about is my neighborhoods.”

State Sen. Linda Newell, the Littleton Democrat who hosted the event, said she hasn't decided yet where she stands on the issue.

“I would ask what protections would be there for smaller craft breweries, what's easiest for consumers, and what's better for the economy as a whole,” she said.

Kagan is running to replace Newell, who is term-limited after the current session. Newell represents Bow Mar, west Centennial, Cherry Hills Village, Columbine Valley, Foxfield, Englewood, Greenwood Village, Littleton, Sheridan and parts of Aurora.

Your Choice Colorado, the coalition working to change the law, filed the paperwork on Nov. 4 to start the process of putting the issue on the 2016 ballot for voters to decide. Kagan and Guzman said they suspect the effort will be successful.

“If it goes to the voters, I suspect it will prevail, and that's the way we do things in Colorado,” Kagan said. “But I will actually be voting no.”

Your Choice Colorado believes a change in the law would actually promote the growth of Colorado's brewing and winemaking industry by opening new shelf space to them.

“This is a common-sense reform that will make life easier for Colorado families, reduce prices for Colorado consumers and create over 22,000 jobs in the state,” said Blake Harrison, Deputy District Attorney of Denver, who filed one of the two ballot measures.

Former Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who filed the other, has said allowing sales in grocery stores has not presented a safety issue in the past.

“Our current two-stop system to purchase alcohol isn't convenient for all consumers or the optimal market for local brewers or businesses,” said Robinson. “Reforming our existing laws makes sense, and we will make it more convenient for Coloradans in a safe and responsible manner.”

To qualify for the ballot in 2016, assuming the ballot language is approved, the campaign has six months to gather 98,492 valid signatures.

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