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Colo. Allowing Grocers to Sell Alcohol

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed a bill that will gradually allow his state’s grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, liquor and wine, marking the state liquor law’s biggest change since Prohibition ended, according to published reports. Currently, these stores are allowed to sell only “near-beer,” watered-down versions of common beers.

The law, which sets up a 20-year period for grocers to acquire liquor licenses, would repeal Colorado’s unusual limits on how many licenses a company or chain may hold to sell alcohol. It would also end the requirement that most grocers sell only near-beer. However, the state’s largest grocers, including Albertsons, Safeway and King Soopers, believe the change will take too long and will ask voters in the fall for speedier changes.

While Hickenlooper recently said he didn’t want to see liquor laws change, as he wishes to protect smaller liquor stores, he signed the measure after meeting with brewers, liquor stores and grocers. However, he also declared that he would “loudly” oppose any effort by supermarkets to push for an immediate change, as he believes a fast change would be unfair to small liquor stores.

Colorado has debated the idea of selling full-strength beer in grocery stores for more than a quarter-century. Voters in 1982 overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure to allow such brews in grocery stores, and since then, beer law has become a perennial topic of debate.

In related news, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed a bill relating to wine sales that would, among other things, permit the beverage to be sold in supermarkets, a move similarly described as the most significant reform to that state's liquor laws since Prohibition.

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