State report recommends allowing 3.2 beer sellers to automatically switch to full-strength brews

Lawmakers now get to decide how to handle the transition away from 3.2 beer.

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The 7-Eleven near the National Western Complex, Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  national western complex; elyria swansea; development; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;

The former 7-Eleven near the National Western Complex, Elyria Swansea, June 14, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The state agency that oversees alcohol licenses in Colorado published a report this month recommending that hundreds of gas stations and grocery stores currently stocking 3.2 beer be able to automatically switch to full strength sales in 2019.

The report from the Colorado Department of Revenue provides suggestions for how the state should phase out 3.2 beer limits for Loaf ‘N Jug, 7-Eleven, King Soopers, Safeway and other stores throughout the state. The department said lawmakers now get to decide how to handle the upcoming transition.

One recommendation in the report suggests that all businesses currently licensed to sell 3.2 beer be allowed to sell higher-strength beer starting Jan. 1, 2019. Stores that aren’t grandfathered in and apply for a new license to sell beer after Jan. 1 would have to meet new requirements, according to the report.

Another suggestion in the report asks for a process to be put into place to allow local community members to petition for a local review before a grocery or convenience store that’s currently licenced to sell 3.2 beer is allowed to switch to higher-strength brews.

As of Jan. 2, the state issued 1,573 licenses to businesses that wanted to sell 3.2 beer. Twelve percent, or 190, of those licence holders are located in Denver, according to state data.

The Department of Revenue and its Liquor and Tobacco Enforcement Division are hoping for “clear direction” from lawmakers on how to handle the transition for licensees.

The Senate Bill 16-197 Working Group Report” was submitted to the General Assembly on Dec. 29, said Meghan Tanis, spokeswoman for the department of revenue.

“Any and all recommendations are now under the purview of the General Assembly,” Tanis said.

Colorado legislators passed SB 197 in 2016 to allow grocery stores and gas stations to stock full-strength beer starting in 2019.  Before the law change, Colorado only allowed grocery stores and gas stations to sell beer with as much as 3.2 percent alcohol by weight or 4 percent by volume.

To help with the transition, lawmakers called for a group comprised of alcohol industry representatives to come up with “an implementation process for grocery and convenience stores” to sell malt beverages with .5 percent or greater alcohol by volume. The new report is a summary of the group’s recommendations.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

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