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Ballot initiative to allow wine in Colorado grocery stores is in review

If it has enough signatures, the ability to sell wine in grocery stores is up to the public come November.

DENVER — The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is reviewing a ballot initiative that would ask voters if grocery and convenience stores should be allowed to sell wine.

The vote comes three years after grocery stores were allowed to stock and sell full-strength beer.

The argument for the initiative is that offering wine in more places would offer a new level of convenience for customers.

However, small liquor stores worry the move could lead to even more pain after the full strength beer decision.

“You’ll see all the little mom and pop stores fading out of existence,” Lisa Von Feldt, owner of Denver store The Wine Seller and Spirits Too, said. “They’re going to price us out of a lot of things.”

According to the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association (CBLA), which serves as a trade association for liquor stores, smaller liquor stores reported 30% less in sales after the full-strength beer change in 2019.

Fears that smaller stores would close all over the state didn’t seem to materialize since then. Before the change in 2017, Colorado had 1,600 liquor stores. Last year the Colorado Department of Revenue reported 1,592 stores.

A spokesman for the CLBA told 9NEWS a surge in sales driven by the pandemic helped keep smaller stores afloat.

At Von Feldt’s family-owned stores, a pivot helped quell the sales loss in full strength beer to grocery stores.

“Less beer sales for sure,” she said. “We stopped carrying every package of Budweiser, Coors, Miller Lite and started carrying a lot more craft beers because that’s where we can shine.”

“That’s not really an option with wine," Von Feldt said. "We can’t sell craft wine. It’s wine.”

If the initiative has enough signatures, it will be on the ballot November 8.

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