February 8 2005, 7:03 AM
The Colorado legislature is considering a bill to allow liquor stores to sell their spirits on Sunday. In Denver, there is a lot of opposition coming from the store owners. Some want to ensure they have a day off, and fear that they will have to be open Sundays if they want to remain competitive. Others fear that this is the first step towards allowing superstores like Wal-Mart and Target to sell full strength beer and liquor, a move they say would ultimately put independent retailers out of business. Sen. Jennifer Veiga, the sponsor of the bill, has offered to amend it to allow local governments to make the call about Sunday sales, and to make the change applicable only to towns with less than 100,000 people and ski areas. One of the potential downsides to allowing superstores to sell alchohol is that the consumer's range of choice may be diminished.
Doug Odell, co-owner of Odell Brewing Co. in Fort Collins, said small breweries in Colorado have benefited from having so many independent stores willing to take a chance selling their beer. He said there would be less selection if larger outlets are eventually allowed to sell more alcoholic products.This argument is reminiscent of those we heard when Barnes & Noble came to town. People feared it would put independent booksellers like the Tattered Cover out of business, and that the megastores would stock only the best sellers or popular titles. That hasn't happened, but maybe it's because of the unique strength and popularity of stores like the Tattered Cover in Denver and the Explorer in Aspen. The same probably holds true for the Denver's Argonaut. It may be inevitable that people will shop where the price is right. I suspect that if the superstores put their lobbying dollars behind it, they would get their way on the issue of selling full-strength liquor. I don't see Sunday sales as being the last barrier -- the straw that broke the camel's back -- on this issue. The store owner who fears working 16 hour days, seven days a week instead of six so as not to lose business to a competitor, has the better argument. It's hard for any urban independent retailer to make a living these days, and they don't need the legislature making it tougher. Ski areas and small towns may be different, but each municipality should have the right to decide for itself. Sen. Veiga's proposed amendments should solve the problem.