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Is full strength beer coming to a grocery store near you?

Beginning January 1, 2019, Colorado will allow full strength beer to be sold at grocery and convenience stores. A law that passed relatively quietly in 2017 allows grocery stores, convenience stores and other establishments to sell alcoholic beverages containing more than 4 percent alcohol by volume.

That does not mean that all grocery stores will be allowed to sell full strength beer, however. There are still numerous restrictions for selling beer, including city ordinances. For businesses that are interested in these types of sales, it is important to understand how these laws intersect. 

Location is everything

A recent city council meeting in Telluride provides a good example of the restrictions stores still face in selling full-strength beer. The Telluride municipal code prevents stores from selling full strength beer within 500 feet of a school. Restaurants and hotels are exempt from this requirement.

Ultimately, council members declined to change the code to allow a grocery store to sell full strength beer, citing concerns that local high school kids may be able to get it through theft or sale.

Regulations must be followed

Stores that want to sell full strength beer will have hurdles to jump over depending on their location. They must be in the right place, they must have proper education and license-checking information for their employees, and they must apply for and be granted the type of license they need. Not following local ordinances could lead to fines and other penalties.

For stores that want to expand, talking to an experienced attorney familiar with state and local liquor licensing is an important first step. 

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