Colorado Proposition 125, Wine Sales in Grocery and Convenience Stores Initiative (2022)

Colorado voters woke up November 9th to a new reality – wine would now be available in local grocery and convenience stores thanks to the passage of Proposition 125. This citizen-initiated ballot measure expanded alcohol licenses to allow wine sales in retail locations already selling beer, marking a major shift for alcohol purchases in the Centennial State.

The Push for Expanded Alcohol Availability in colorado prop 125

Up until now, options for take-home alcohol in Colorado were limited for shoppers. Liquor stores were the only locations allowed to sell beer, wine, and spirits for off-site consumption. Grocery and convenience stores could sell only beer. Proposition 125 created a new “fermented malt beverage and wine” license to change the status quo.

This license allows existing beer retailers like grocery and convenience stores to stock their shelves with wine as well. These stores are now permitted to sell vinifera, fruit, and hybrid wines. Licenses can also include tastings if authorized locally.

Standing in the Way – Strict Location Limits

The new wine licenses do come with a major location restriction. The initiative prohibits the wine license from being issued within 500 feet of an existing liquor store. Additionally,should a liquor store look to open near a newly-licensed grocery or convenience location, the same 500 foot limit applies in the other direction.

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These location limits aim to somewhat protect the territory of liquor stores by limiting proximity of the new competition. However, liquor stores expressed concern that the passage of Prop 125 could still significantly hurt their businesses.

Powerful Support for Proposition 125

A coalition known as “Wine in Grocery Stores” took the lead advocating for Proposition 125. The group invested significant funds into the campaign, raising over $14 million dollars.

Major grocery chains like Albertsons, Safeway, Kroger, and Target opened their wallets to support the initiative. Other corporations like DoorDash and Instacart also made large contributions, likely hopeful that expanded alcohol delivery options would be next.

Beyond industry dollars, the campaign touted support from organizations like the NAACP, Colorado Chamber of Commerce, and Pro 15 representing rural interests. Prop 125 was clearly powered by the well-funded retail and delivery sectors.

Convenience: The Heart of the Argument

“Convenience” was the word of the day from Prop 125 supporters. They focused messaging on modernizing Colorado’s alcohol purchases by giving consumers the ease of one-stop shopping.

Backers touted being able to save trips by buying dinner ingredients and wine in the same visit. They also called out needing to order takeout food and alcohol delivery from separate places under the old laws.

Supporters channeled convenience as the main perk for Colorado consumers if grocery and convenience stores could integrate wine into existing beer sales.

Debating the Impact on Local Businesses

The opposition to Prop 125 was led by a grassroots coalition called Keeping Colorado Local. The group’s main contention was that allowing wine in grocery and convenience stores would negatively impact locally-owned liquor stores.

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They refuted convenience arguments by stating liquor stores are easily accessible and some already deliver. The coalition warned Prop 125 was prioritizing out-of-state corporate chains over small businesses.

However, grocery stores contested claims that liquor stores would be significantly harmed. They contended beer legalization years earlier had not dented liquor store numbers, arguing the two could co-exist.

Election Day Success Despite Low Support

When November 8th arrived, Proposition 125 passed but with tepid support. Just 51.77% of Colorado voters said yes. The measure succeeded in large part thanks to the lopsided fundraising advantage from the grocery and delivery industry.

However, the unenthusiastic margin of victory showed ambivalence from many voters. Concerns about hurting local liquor stores likely tempered support despite the convenience pitch.

Wine Joins the Grocery Shelf in Most States

The passage of Proposition 125 brought Colorado in line with the vast majority of states when it comes to wine availability. Prior to the 2022 midterms, only 11 states restricted grocery and convenience stores from selling wine.

Now wine sits on shelves next to beer in 39 states, with Colorado joining robust company in allowing expanded alcohol access. Although liquor stores will lose some sales, Colorado consumers now enjoy convenience in Wine Country.

Conclusion

The contentious vote over Proposition 125 concluded with a slim victory for expanding wine availability to grocery and convenience stores. With the new license approved, shoppers in Colorado can now purchase cabernet, merlot, and chardonnay during routine trips.

While concerns persist about impacts on local liquor stores, the dominance of out-of-state corporate funding carried the day. Colorado’s alcohol landscape will now shift towards greater convenience through wider wine access. Time will tell how drastically liquor store business suffers, but expanded consumer choice has clearly arrived.

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FAQs

What exactly does Prop 125 do?

Prop 125 creates a new “fermented malt beverage and wine” license allowing grocery and convenience stores that already sell beer to also sell wine for take-home consumption.

When can grocery stores start selling wine?

The new licenses take effect March 1, 2023, so wine will hit shelves that spring. Existing beer retailers can automatically convert to the new joint beer and wine license.

How close can wine-licensed groceries be to liquor stores?

Very limited. The initiative prohibits issuing a wine license within 500 feet of an existing liquor store, and vice versa for new liquor stores near an established wine-licensed grocery/convenience location.

Does Prop 125 allow other alcohol sales in groceries?

No, the measure only applies to wine. Grocery and convenience stores still cannot sell spirits – that remains limited to liquor stores.

Can all Colorado groceries get the wine license?

No, only existing beer retailers can convert to the joint beer and wine license. Stores without beer licenses currently cannot newly add wine. The license depends on already selling malt beverages.

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