This November, voters will have the opportunity to decide on not one, but three ballot measures regarding the sale and delivery of alcohol in Colorado.
While financial backers on both sides are pushing an “all or none” approach, a more nuanced approach to voting might offer Coloradans a chance to both increase customer convenience and protect a niche for local businesses.
Prop. 124: No
Unlike the other two propositions that offer tangible benefits and convenience to most Coloradans, Proposition 124 brings far more pain than gain. Financed heavily by out-of-state owners of a national chain called Total Wine & More, this measure seeks to dramatically expand liquor licensing laws to eventually permit unlimited licenses per individual or company.
Since most local and independent liquor stores lack the capital to expand indefinitely, voting yes on Prop. 124 would essentially give license to chain retailers to take hold in the state.
This will ultimately push out small liquor operations with little to no gain in convenience or price to customers. Especially given the impact Prop. 125 may have on wine sales for small businesses, maintaining our current laws that protect small liquor retailers could be critical to their survival.
Prop. 125: Yes
As alluded to above, Prop. 125 is perhaps the most double-edged of the three alcohol-related ballot measures this year. Following on the heels of a 2019 law that permitted the sale of full-strength beer in grocery stores, this proposition simply seeks to add wine to this list.
Polls already show that most voters support selling wine in grocery stores, and for good reason — it’s extremely convenient. Yet even if this measure will give Coloradans what they want, voters should be aware it could hurt independent retailers.
Although supporters of Prop. 125 point out that local stores were not forced to shutter their doors as grocery stores picked up in beer sales, this argument neglects to add that many owners did report notable losses. It’s therefore reasonable to assume that there would be a loss in wine sales, too, and the combination could prove problematic.
Still, convenience does matter, and the measure is more likely than not to pass due to popular demand. This is why voting no on Prop. 124 is all the more necessary, as it offers small businesses a niche in liquor, specialty beverages and increased services not readily available with grocery store convenience — all without the worry of unfair out-of-state competition.
Prop. 126: Yes
Prop. 126 seeks to extend the sale of to-go alcohol purchases indefinitely, as well as authorize third-party delivery. While to-go sales are largely supported, opponents say third-party delivery is a concern.
Specifically, opponents note that current laws already allow liquor stores or restaurant personnel to safely deliver alcohol products, and that extending to third-party deliveries such as DoorDash or Instacart would compromise safe sale.
The concern as cited appears to stem from a 2020 investigation by the California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control released shortly after the state relaxed to-go beverage regulations in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the time, both ABC and the Washington Post reported a slight increase in illegal alcohol deliveries to minors via use of third-party delivery apps, in large part due to a lack of driver training and restaurant menus that didn’t correctly distinguish alcohol content on their menu.
In the two years since these findings, however, restaurants and third-party delivery services have begun to meet the moment by increasing safety protocols for alcohol delivery.
As of July, multiple third-party services will now require delivery personnel to scan a customer’s ID before leaving adult beverages. Combined with strict penalty laws for illegal delivery in our state, such efforts should help curb concerns of illegal sales to minors while permitting the convenience of home delivery for Coloradans of legal age.
Trish Zornio is a scientist, lecturer and writer who has worked at some of the nation’s top universities and hospitals. She’s an avid rock climber and was a 2020 candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado.
The Colorado Sun is a nonpartisan news organization, and the opinions of columnists and editorial writers do not reflect the opinions of the newsroom. Read our ethics policy for more on The Sun’s opinion policy and submit columns, suggested writers and more to firstname.lastname@example.org.