COLORADO SPRINGS — Jim Little has owned Coaltrain Wine and Spirits in Colorado Springs for 41 years.
"We started out about a fifth of the size we are now, we've gone through four expansions," Little said. His business is near Colorado College and many of his customers have a personal relationship with him and his 20 employees.
For Little, it's those relationships with his customers he finds fulfilling for his business. Inside his store, it's difficult not to catch Little greet customers coming through the door by name.
"It's just a great neighborhood to be in," Little said.
A potential ballot question for Colorado voters in November has Little concerned, it would allow the wine to be sold in Colorado grocery stores starting in March of 2023.
"My initial reaction is how unfair it is," Little said, adding when he started Coaltrain he petitioned neighbors in the area to show an interest in the store.
In 2016, a law passed in Colorado to start a phased-in approach for grocery stores to start selling full-strength beer, wine, and liquor. Grocery stores could start selling full-strength beer in 2019. Some stores have licenses to sell wine and liquor already. The original agreement allowed every location to sell wine, liquor, and beer by 2037.
This ballot question would move the sales of wine up to 2023.
"Hopefully our business would survive, we've diverted some of our store space to food items," Little said.
Little said the intent behind the original agreement was to give stores a 20-year period to adapt their business models.
"Now they want to override that and totally change the rules, and it was well thought out," Little said.
Stores like Cheers Liquor Mart saw a decrease in business the first year full-strength beer was allowed in grocery stores in 2019. The pandemic had the opposite effect, with sales booming in 2020 and 2021.
Jack Backman said the sale of beer decreased 10 to 15 percent that first year, but his business has changed a lot in the past couple of years. At the beginning of 2020, the store launched an app for delivery, just in time for the pandemic.
"Our delivery went from being one percent of our business to ten percent of our business," Backman said.
Backman shares the concerns over wine sales being moved up to 2023. He understands putting wine in grocery stores would be convenient for shoppers, but he's concerned about the future of his business as well as the more than 1,600 independently owned stores.
"A lot of people want that convenience but they need to be careful what they ask for," Backman siad.
Right now, signatures are being verified for the ballot initiative.
For more information on the ballot initiative check the following link: Wine in Grocery Stores
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