Oct 16, 2022 - Business

1-minute voter guide: Colorado Prop. 124, 125 and 126 on alcohol

Illustration of a white podium changing into a voting booth and then changing into three campaign signs, over a divided red and blue background.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Three questions on the 2022 ballot propose dramatic changes to the state's liquor laws.

Why it matters: All the efforts failed to gain support at the state Legislature in recent years, so proponents are spending big money to take them to voters this November.

What to know: The ballot questions are primarily pushed by alcohol purveyors — who are pumping in big money — to expand sales beyond the restrictive Colorado laws that limit the number of liquor stores and where alcohol can be sold.

1) Proposition 124 allows liquor store chains to add more locations, up to eight in 2026 and increasing gradually to an unlimited number starting in 2037. Now, they are restricted to at most four locations by 2031.

  • Flashback: Prior to a law change in 2017, each liquor store owner could have only one location, and limits applied to where they were located.

What they're saying: Supporters say the measure brings parity because grocery store chains can have more attached liquor stores than other retailers.

The other side: Opponents — namely independently owned liquor stores, credited with helping establish the state's craft beer and spirits scene — say it would put mom-and-pop shops out of business because they don't have the ability to expand.

2) Proposition 125 hits on a popular consumer complaint: The lack of wine sales in grocery stores.

What to know: It would allow the 1,819 locations that sell beer — notably grocery and convenience stores — to sell wine and related beverages, as well as conduct tastings starting in March 2023.

  • Sales are limited to 8am to midnight.

What they're saying: The proponents argue that this would make it easier for consumers to buy what they want in one trip.

The other side: The independent liquor stores that now are the purveyors of wine — because of current legal restrictions — say it would hurt their business.

3) Proposition 126: Who can sell and deliver alcohol would change with this ballot question.

  • The measure allows third-party companies, such as Drizzly, to deliver alcohol from liquor, grocery and convenience stores, bars, restaurants and similar businesses. Right now, it's restricted to the individual company's employees.
  • It also would make permanent the current ability — set to expire in 2025 — for bars and restaurants to sell takeout and delivery alcoholic beverages.

The other side: The opponents — namely current alcohol retailers — argue it removes current safeguards at physical stores when it comes to age verification.

  • And it cuts into their sales. The move to selling beer in grocery stores led to a roughly 30% cut in business, they say.
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