By Deb Risden
Effective March 1, grocery and convenience stores are now legally able to sell wine to consumers. The ballot measure, Proposition 125, was passed by a 2% margin in the November 2022 election. In the past five months, local liquor stores have felt the impact but have also made changes to their inventories and have looked to creative solutions to bridge the gap.
Carol Freudenberger, owner of Falcon Liquor Outlet, said they have seen a decline in wine sales. “We have an amazing customer base,” Freudenberger said. “I carry a really large variety of products; and, although I have seen impacts in some reduced wine sales, I still have a very robust sales of wine in my store.
“When grocery stores started selling beer, it impacted us a lot. But I still sell a lot of beer. My store is working and striving to continue to provide the variety and pricing that my customers have come to rely on and expect. I am doing my very best.”
Local liquor store owners pointed out that grocery stores have limited space, limiting the variety they can offer. Those liquor stores continue to offer more varieties of wine to attract customers looking for something other than the less expensive, popular wines.
Chris Robinson, owner of Oasis Liquor, which is next to Safeway in Falcon, said although wine sales decreased in their store, he now carries a smaller amount of wine, including some rare wines, which represent a smaller amount of total sales. “We try to be more of a niche store, a boutique offering what groceries do not offer,” Robinson said. “We still have quite a few folks that like to support small business and we appreciate that.”
Innovation is Robinson’s answer to the reduced wine sales. The store has expanded their whiskey, vodka and rum selections, and they are working on expanding tequila. Robinson said, “We started offering open tastings, a way for customers to try before they buy. We will open any bottle in the store for a customer as long as it’s not carbonated and is priced under $80.” He believes they are the only store in Colorado that has this offer for customers. Colorado limits sampling of liquor to four per person. “I started realizing people are branching out and trying new things,” he said. “They are really enjoying the tastings.”
Robinson said he thinks it’s only a matter of time before hard liquor is sold in grocery stores. He said people who move here from other states miss being able to buy liquor in their grocery stores. “Bigger companies may spend the money to push for those and get them on the ballot,” he said. “Maybe it will be a bit before it gets proposed. Since wine passed at a close 51-49, a company might hesitate to invest. They have to spend a lot of money.”
Phil Koons, owner of Black Forest Liquor Store, said he has felt the impact of fewer wine sales — and he prepared for it. “You have to boutique your store and carry items that are not mainstream like the grocery stores sell,” he said.
Koons said he thinks hard liquor will eventually come to grocery stores. “You can’t stop progress. You can help make things better,” he said. “Small liquor stores that are family owned are never going to hold up to a large corporation, but we can always make things to where the little guy can help out families.
“There are advantages of liquor stores over grocery stores. Not everyone wants to go to the grocery store.” Koons said the local Black Forest community still shops at his store. “It’s a great community. I’m very blessed for it.”