A wolf in sheep’s clothing for craft beer, Colorado

A wolf in sheep’s clothing for craft beer, Colorado

“Craft beer bill” faces opposition from Republicans, Democrats and craft brewers.


Colorado’s unique liquor laws enable independent businesses to offer a wide selection of products, services and experiences.

DENVER _ A bill that would make alcohol more accessible for minors, threaten Colorado jobs and harm craft beer brewers was panned Friday by Republican and Democratic legislators, craft brewers and local small businesses.

House Bill 1178, introduced Thursday with just a single sponsor, is the latest attempt by out-of-state chain stores like Safeway, 7-Eleven and Circle K to put local retailers out of business by offering full-strength beer in gas stations.

“This is the same bill Coloradans have rejected over and over because we value local jobs and we don’t want alcohol where kids buy candy,” said Kim Schottleutner, who owns DTC Wine and Spirits. “It is guaranteed to hurt local stores like mine and that effects jobs just as we are recovering from the recession.”

Year after year an army of lobbyists descend on Colorado’s Capitol to put a fresh disguise on the same bill the legislature has overwhelmingly rejected time and again. This year’s gimmick is an attempt to entice craft beer brewers who have been thriving under our current system. But local brewers aren’t taking the bait. The Colorado Brewers Guild has opposed HB-1178.

“HB-1178 is not in the interest of Colorado craft beer,” said Todd Usry, the brewmaster and general manager of Breckenridge Breweries. “It would begin to dismantle one of the best craft beer markets in the nation, compromising Colorado jobs in the process. Colorado craft beer is a bright spot in an otherwise cloudy economy. The current system of retail beer sales works well offering opportunity for entrepreneurs.”

Colorado’s current system of more than 1,600 independent, family-owned retailers plays a significant role in the success of the craft beer industry. Upstart brewers are able to walk into a local store, speak to the owner, and reach a deal to get their product on the shelf in days. That can’t happen if out-of-state corporate offices are making the purchasing decisions.

HB-1178 has been assigned to the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee where it faces strong bipartisan opposition among committee members.

“The bill would have devastating impacts on family-owned stores across Colorado and increase access to alcohol for teenagers,” said Rep. Angela Williams, D-Denver who chairs the Business Affairs and Labor Committee. “Republicans and Democrats oppose these changes because we need to be working to create jobs not destroy them, and we need to be making our communities safer, not less.”

Legislators overwhelmingly agree that there is no sense in messing with a system that creates jobs, satisfies the consumer and puts a premium on safety.

“Our current system has helped make Colorado the ‘Napa Valley of Craft Beer,'” said Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, who also serves on the Committee. “As an advocate for small businesses, I don’t want to change what makes us the envy of the nation, created tens of thousands of jobs and built one of Colorado’s strongest and fastest growing industries. It’s a bad idea.”