There are plenty of races that were worth keeping a close eye on after last week’s midterm elections: the Georgia Senate, the Los Angeles Mayoral, and the Arizona Governor races have all kept us on the edge of our seats. But in Colorado there’s one under-the-radar race that’s too close to call, one that will affect millions of drinkers in the state. It’s Proposition 125, and if passed it would make it easier for shoppers to buy wine along with their groceries.
It has only been three years since Colorado passed legislation allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer, Colorado Public Radio (CPR) reports. If passed, Proposition 125 would allow the same for wine starting on March 1, 2023.
According to CPR, while national grocery chains and tech companies have been pushing for support of the measure, many voters remained on the fence because of the potential blow to independently owned liquor stores. The Colorado Licensed Beverage Association claims that those small businesses lost 30-40% of sales when grocery store beer sales were approved, and it anticipates a similar blow with Prop 125.
There were two other liquor-related matters on the Colorado ballot this year that failed to pass, one allowing delivery of alcohol and another increasing the number of stores a liquor chain could operate. Still, constituents seem pretty evenly split on the issue of wine, with the count currently standing at 50.53% for and 49.47% against. An automatic recount could be triggered in the coming weeks.
Colorado isn’t the only state with restrictions on what liquor can be sold where. In these states, grocery stores aren’t allowed to sell alcohol at all:
- Maryland (varies by county)
- New Jersey (only in very rare cases)
- Rhode Island
There are the states that, like Colorado, can currently only sell beer in grocery stores (not wine or spirits), sometimes with even more specific restrictions on the type of beer:
- Kansas (must be 6% ABV or lower)
- Minnesota (must be 3.2% ABV or lower)
- New York
- Utah (must be 4% ABV or lower)
And some Colorado residents are hoping to join the ranks of these states, in which grocery stores can sell beer and wine, just not liquor:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- Washington, D.C.
If your state didn’t make it on any of these lists, congratulations—you know how to party, and can do so with one-stop-shop convenience at virtually any grocery store.
The reason that liquor laws vary so widely across the United States is because when Prohibition ended in 1933, those pieces of legislation were left up to state and local governments—it wasn’t even until 1984 that there was a federally mandated drinking age.
According to Reason Magazine, states at the time either had the government completely take control of alcohol sales or put a tier system in place that required producers of alcohol to be legally separate entities from wholesalers and retailers of alcohol. And now, because the laws have been in place for so long, changing them creates a huge divide in states like Colorado between liquor store owners and grocery store owners.
These laws might not feel antiquated if you’re used to them, but when held up against modern allowances, they just seem silly. Why, for example, can you get weed delivered at the drop of a hat in Colorado, yet alcohol delivery is a contentious topic? Of course, no matter the laws in each state, people of legal drinking age have some way to procure beer and wine no matter what. Depending on where you live and which laws stay on the books, it just takes more advance planning to do so.