DENVER (AP) - Colorado grocery chains that want to sell wine and full-strength beer will lobby lawmakers next year or go to the ballot to make it possible, setting up a battle with liquor stores and craft breweries that have opposed the idea for years.
"It's time for a change, and we're excited to announce that more choices are brewing for Colorado," said Georgie Aguirre-Sacasa, spokeswoman for a coalition called Your Choice Colorado, which announced its campaign Wednesday.
Colorado is among a handful of states where gas stations, grocery stores and convenience stores can only sell beer with an alcohol content of 3.2 percent. The law is a holdover from the Prohibition-era, and lawmakers who have tried to change it have failed several times.
Campaign organizers say they'll try again to convince them to change the law during the session that begins in January. If that fails, they'll work to put the question to voters on November 2016.
An exemption to the law allows grocery chains to have liquor license to sell wine and stronger beer, but they can only do that at a single store location in the state. Supporters of the law change say they want consumers to have the convenience of buying alcohol while doing their shopping.
Organizers of the campaign made their announcement against the backdrop of boxes of craft beer at a Denver-area King Soopers, which is allowed to sell wine and full-strength brews.
Liquor stores argue changing the law will ruin them, and craft brewers who are on their side they'll also suffer because the local businesses make it easier for them to showcase their product.
"I think the largest and the oldest breweries in the state know what has got them to that place. It was the independent liquor store system in Colorado that really got them off the ground," said Steve Kurowski with the Colorado Brewers Guild.
Tyler Sandberg, another spokesman for "Your Choice Colorado," said that although no craft brewers were present to support their campaign launch, several have indicated privately that they like the idea.
"I don't think the industry as a whole is speaking with one voice," Sandberg said.
But Kurowski said one concern from craft brewers is the smaller beer entrepreneurs will not get shelf space at grocery stores.
"It's not about the five largest breweries, craft breweries in Colorado, it's about the 250 smallest breweries in Colorado that may lose all the access" to the market, he said.
- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
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