When Colorado eliminated a law restricting grocery stores from selling full-strength beer, it seemed predictable that sales would rise like foam in a beer glass.
And so they have.
Before the change took effect on January 1, full-strength beer sales were largely limited to liquor stores and breweries, wineries and distilleries. With the increased grocery store market, sales figures from the first five months of this year show an overall rise, according to the Brewers Association and reported by the Denver Business Journal. Additionally, the Journal reported a drop in sales of wine and spirits.
The Journal notes that “a total of 48.4 million gallons of beer were sold over the first five months of this year, up from 45.6 million combined gallons of malt liquor and 3.2% beer from January through May of 2018. Meanwhile, the gallons of spirits that were sold during the five-month period fell from 5.2 million in 2018 to 4.8 million this year, while gallons of wine sold dropped from 7.1 million during that time in 2018 to 6.8 million this year.”
The jury’s out on whether this will be a long-term trend. Jeanne McEvoy, president and CEO of the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, told the Journal that since those first five months, liquor stores across the state have reported a bounce-back in liquor and wine sales. Those located near grocery stores, however, are still experiencing significant decrease in their beer sales, “which account for the majority of most liquor stores’ revenues,” according to the Journal.
Just before the old law went away, the Colorado Beer Distributors Association estimated that grocery and convenience stores would likely increase their beer orders by a cumulative 30% in 2019, according to the Denver Post, while beer sales at liquor stores would “drop by a corresponding 30% as they face significant competition…”
Clearly, there has been an impact on liquor store sales, but McEvoy doesn’t see disaster looming. “We will never come back to the heyday of when we were the only game in town,” she told the Journal, referring to liquor stores. But especially with craft spirits, ‘Buy local’ is still very big in our communities.”