Colorado Proposition 124, Retail Liquor Store Licenses Initiative (2022)

Colorado Proposition 124 was a ballot initiative in the 2022 midterm elections concerning retail liquor store licensing in the state. Specifically, Proposition 124 proposed incrementally increasing the number of retail liquor store licenses an individual could own over time, eventually removing license limits altogether after January 2037.

On November 8, 2022, Colorado voters decisively rejected Proposition 124. The final results were 62.31% voting no and 37.69% voting yes. This outcome means Colorado’s existing limits on the number of retail liquor licenses per owner will remain unchanged.

Background on Colorado’s Alcohol Licensing Laws

Prior to the election, Colorado law restricted retail liquor store owners to a maximum of 3 licenses statewide. This limit was set to increase to 4 locations per owner beginning in 2027.

In comparison, grocery and convenience stores with beer and wine licenses in Colorado face no caps on the number of locations they can operate. There are also no limits on liquor licenses for drug stores and fermented malt beverage retailers.

Proposition 124 aimed to incrementally raise retail liquor store license limits over time:

  • Up to 8 licenses per owner by December 31, 2026
  • Up to 13 licenses by December 31, 2031
  • Up to 20 licenses by December 31, 2036
  • No license limit after January 1, 2037

Supporters argued this gradual parity would help small business liquor stores compete as grocery chains continue expanding. Opponents said it would primarily benefit large chains over local mom-and-pops.

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Path to the Ballot

Proposition 124 qualified for the ballot through Colorado’s signature petition process for statutory initiatives.

  • The required number of valid signatures was 124,632, equal to 5% of votes in the 2018 Sec. of State race.
  • 225,440 raw signatures were submitted by the August 8 deadline, with 149,799 projected as valid after sampling verification.
  • On August 26, 2022, the Secretary of State certified Proposition 124 for the ballot, as the projection exceeded the signature requirement.

Election Campaigning and Finances

Coloradans for Liquor Fairness was the main committee supporting Proposition 124. They raised over $13 million, mostly from major liquor retailers.

  • Top donors included Total Wine co-founders David and Robert Trone.

Keeping Colorado Local led the opposition campaign, raising around $900,000.

  • Main donors were the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association and local liquor businesses.

Notable endorsements:

  • The Denver Post and other newspapers editorial boards backed Proposition 124.
  • The opposition was endorsed by the Durango Herald editorial board.

Recent History of Colorado Ballot Measures

  • At least 3 statewide ballot propositions have appeared in every even-numbered election year from 2000 to 2020 in Colorado.
  • During that period, nearly 46% of all measures were approved by voters and about 54% were defeated.
  • In 2022, Proposition 124 was one of 3 initiatives concerning alcohol regulation on the Colorado ballot.

Conclusion

The defeat of Proposition 124 reinforces limits on retail liquor licenses and maintains the status quo in Colorado. Small, independent liquor store owners viewed this outcome as a victory over encroachment by national chains.

However, the broader debate around updating alcohol licensing laws will likely continue. With grocery stores rapidly expanding, pressure for liquor store owners to compete under current restrictions may persist.

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FAQs

What were the existing retail liquor license limits in Colorado prior to the 2022 election?

Prior to the election, Colorado law restricted retail liquor store owners to a maximum of 3 licenses statewide. This limit was set to increase to 4 locations per owner beginning in 2027.

Who funded the committee supporting Proposition 124?

The main financial backers of Proposition 124 were Total Wine co-founders David and Robert Trone. Their company Colorado Fine Wine & Spirits LLC contributed nearly $12 million to the pro-124 campaign committee.

What percentage of Colorado voters approved Proposition 124?

Only 37.69% voted yes on Proposition 124, while 62.31% voted no. This overwhelming defeat means the initiative failed.

What other alcohol-related ballot measures were on the 2022 Colorado ballot?

Along with Proposition 124, voters decided on Proposition 125 (allowing grocery/convenience stores to sell wine) and Proposition 126 (legalizing alcohol delivery services). Prop 125 passed but Prop 126 failed.

Could Proposition 124 appear on the ballot again in the future?

Yes, supporters could attempt to put a similar retail liquor licensing measure before Colorado voters in a future election, either in an amended form or proposed again as-is.

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