One last weak beer bill is still brewing

The Colorado Statesman

A second week of attention to changing Colorado’s laws on who can sell beer and at what strength saw another bill go down the drain and one left still on tap.

Senate President Pro Tem Betty Boyd, D-Lakewood, is the sponsor of two bills that got Senate action this week.

The first of the two was the one most desired by the convenience store industry, Senate Bill 11-194, which would allow those businesses to sell full-strength beer and would allow liquor stores to sell 3.2 percent beer.

Under current law, convenience and grocery stores are limited to sales of 3.2 percent beer; full-strength beer can have an alcohol content of 11 percent or more.

Last week, the House put down an effort similar to SB 194. House Bill 11-1284 would have allowed grocery and convenience stores the right to sell full-strength beer, but the measure failed to gain even a third of the House’s support.

Boyd told the Senate Tuesday that at the beginning of the session, she believed she had the votes to get SB 194 through the General Assembly. But both HB 1284 and SB 194 were the subject of intense lobbying from the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association as well as the Colorado Brewers Guild. That led Boyd on Tuesday to ask the Senate to postpone action on her bill until May 12, the day after the 120-day session ends, effectively capping the bill.

The CLBA cheered the demise of SB 194. “After four years of overwhelming opposition to out-of-state interests’ attempts to hurt Colorado small businesses, it’s time to put this issue out of its misery,” said CLBA President Jeanne McEvoy in a Tuesday statement.  “It’s time for convenience stores and grocery stores to get the message and leave local Colorado businesses alone.”  

The end of SB 194 leaves one last bill, the weakest of the three, still brewing. SB 060 would allow anyone holding an on-premise liquor license to sell any kind of beer, including 3.2 percent. Boyd told the Senate Tuesday that she and co-prime sponsor Sen. Jean White, R-Hayden, agreed to carry the bill on behalf of restaurants and other establishments that sell on-premise beverages. “It makes perfect sense,” Boyd said. Why would the state expect that when people go to dinner that they be required to be served beer stronger than what they want? Boyd asked. “It makes every sense that they have the opportunity [to have 3.2 percent beer].” Boyd also noted that the premise of SB 60 had been in all the other beer bills this session that had failed, and had any of them passed, SB 60 would not be necessary.

SB 60 got the full approval of the Senate Wednesday on a 32-2 vote and is on its way to the House.

Marianne@coloradostatesman.com