Alcohol to-go could become the norm in Colorado

Some Colorado restaurants and bars will be able to indefinitely offer alcohol for takeout and delivery if a bipartisan bill passes in the legislature this year, although a major liquor store group is so far opposing the plan.

“Consumers love it,” bill sponsor Rep. Colin Larson said. “Restaurants are really enjoying it. It’s keeping them afloat.”

In March, Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order that allowed restaurants and small businesses to do liquor to-go as a means of making up for lost indoor dining profits during the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers passed another bill last year to allow the practice until July 2021, but the bill hasn’t taken effect because the pandemic is ongoing and the governor’s executive order has been extended.

The new bill would remove the repeal date and add additional restrictions.

Larson, a Littleton Republican, said given consumer demand, it’s surprising it hadn’t happened before.

In addition to helping businesses during the pandemic, Larson said it will also help them during a time of recovery when social norms may have changed and consumer confidence for dining out still may not be as high as it was before COVID. Plus, he said, the bill aims to give restaurants certainty with their business plans.

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But the Colorado Licensed Beverage Association, which represents retail liquor stores, argued there needs to be a sunset date. Executive Director Kachina Weaver said the group understands restaurants have been in a difficult situation with COVID, especially with mandated closures and restrictions. But a permanent change to liquor laws is something entirely different.

“This was a lifeline for a moment in time,” Weaver said. “It was never discussed or debated as a permanent policy.”

Liquor store sales have grown 10-20% during the pandemic, said bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Bridges, a Greenwood Village Democrat, and that was without limits on how much to-go alcohol restaurants and taverns can sell under the executive order. If the new bill passes, it’ll restrict sales to a six-pack of beer, a bottle of wine or a bottle of liquor.

The bill will also apply to distillers and craft brewers, and sponsors are looking at potentially having a volume cap so large companies that distribute won’t usurp the smaller businesses.

The experiences for the consumer are different when buying to-go alcohol — someone may want to add a cocktail to their dinner order from a restaurant one night, rather than going to a liquor store, and vice versa.

“I think the people of …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Politics


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