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"It's tough," Colorado Springs liquor store owners say wine sales plunge 25%

Colorado voters approved wine sales in all grocery stores in November 2022, sales began in March.
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Posted at 6:40 PM, Jul 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-10 12:09:31-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Jack Backman has been working in the liquor business for 47 years. He's owned Cheers Liquor Mart in Colorado Springs for the last 28.

"It was always, it was a fun job it was easy we made money, we made good connections with customers, good employees, and now it's just hard," Backman said.

The last few months have been especially difficult for local liquor store owners like Backman. In March, all Colorado grocery stores were given the ability to sell wine. Previously, a limited number of grocery stores for each chain had the ability.

That all changed after Colorado voters narrowly approved a question on the 2022 ballot by about 88,200 votes.

There are so many people in the state from other states that are from California, Arizona, Texas where they have it everywhere and they just thought it would be great," Backman said.

Cheers Liquor Mart is situated in front of a Safeway near Circle and Uintah in Colorado Springs. Backman said he knew at some point Safeway would become a competitor.

"It’s tough, it’s a challenge, you gotta buy the right things and you know try to make everybody happy," Backman said.

In the past few months, Cheers Liquor Mart has maintained its wine selection and Backman said they've added more wines in hopes of attracting more customers with more variety.

Backman said wine sales have declined by 25 percent in the past couple of months for the store. With the drop in sales, Backman hasn't had to make drastic changes like layoff staff. He said it's important to him to keep employees with expertise.

"We're going to battle this as hard as we can, we’ve got some great employees here and I’m not going to walk away from them, we’re going to keep pedaling we’ll be alright," Backman said.

A similar story is unfolding for Justin Goings, the manager at Veterans Wine and Liquor in northeast Colorado Springs. The store shares a parking lot with King Soopers at Academy and Austin Bluffs.

"It's been pretty difficult, it dipped a lot more than I thought it would,” Goings said.

Much like Backman, Goings said the store is working to increase its variety.

"It's a learning process, a lot of trial and error,” Goings said.

Both of the owners said it's not just the wine in grocery stores contributing to the decline in wine sales. In general, nationally, the owners said wine sales are down by about 15 percent. They said people are drinking more tequila and bourbon and it's selling well.

News5 reached out to Safeway and King Soopers to learn more about the impact on its businesses in Colorado.

Safeway replied to News5's inquiry with a statement saying "Customers like the convenience of being able to purchase wine with their groceries. However, for competitive reasons, we do not share sales information."

King Soopers did not respond to News5 prior to the initial publishing of this article. In a statement sent to News5 Tuesday, it read "Customers have told us for a long time that they are looking for a one-stop shopping experience, that includes the option to pick up a bottle of wine with their groceries. Our goal at King Soopers is to meet the needs of our customers and we are excited to be able to provide the added convenience and selection they are looking for in our stores."

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