The latest effort to grow the number of Colorado stores that can sell a full array of alcohol squeaked out of its first committee at the state Legislature Wednesday, showing along the way exactly how caustic and divisive the debate around the subject has grown.

Opponents of House Bill 1370— which would allow retail liquor stores, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and smaller grocery chains to add locations selling full-strength beer, wine and spirits — accused the bill of being written to benefit one mega-store, Applejack Wine & Spirits of Wheat Ridge. They also said it violates the spirit of a law signed just last year that represented the biggest shift in liquor-sales statutes in Colorado since Prohibition.

Backers of the effort, meanwhile, accused opponents of waging a “personal vendetta” against Applejack co-owner Jim Shpall, accused another liquor store that wasn’t even present at the hearing of violating state laws, and said that the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association (CLBA) just wants to continue an eight-decade monopoly on liquor sales for its small-liquor-store members.

And they made an issue of a errant text sent by CLBA President/CEO Jeanne McEvoy in which she said she didn’t want to show the bill to members because they might like it, a remark McEvoy later said was meant to be sarcastic.

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