O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
February 2019

Columnist — Joyce Trent

DENVER — History was made in Colorado on New Year's Day as full-strength beer went on the shelves of the state's convenience stores and groceries. But, despite the hoopla surrounding it, sales were lackluster — probably because consumers were still feeling the effects of the night before.

The Colorado Legislature last year struck down a law that had kept those businesses from selling anything but 3.2 beer for 83 years. The liquor store industry had fought long and hard to keep the ban in place.

The change was heralded throughout the state. To celebrate, eight of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses pulling the iconic red wagon were driven to the Capitol building, where a host of politicians and beer executives gave speeches lauding what it would do for the state.

While existing 3.2 beer licenses would be automatically upgraded some convenience stores that had not sold the watered-down brew hurriedly applied for a 3.2 license to be included as new sellers would face certain restrictions the others didn't in the new year.

Colorado flag

The convenience store chain Circle K took to the internet to herald a "New Beer Day" and promised its shelves would be full of product.

Not every convenience store was so lucky, however, as the large grocery chains' demand threatened to swamp suppliers. There is no limit on how much can be sold. Some stores had to wait a week — longer in rural areas — to receive their orders.

There were universal problems. Getting rid of the 3.2 beer on hand was one. Once the 3.2 beer was gone, consumers faced either empty shelves or shelves stocked with soda as merchants could not even stock the new beer until New Year's Day — and could not sell it until 8:00 a.m.

For 7-Eleven store manager Steve Woodrum, getting ready was a hassle. "It was more work for me. We had to condense the coolers and take product out. We're only so big here," he said. "It kind of cramps it." Some grocers devoted a huge space to the beer. And Woodrum knew he wouldn't get much help from distributors.

Steve Findley of the Colorado Beer Distributors Association, warned, "We can't pay you for shelf space or give you coolers or tap handles. One brewer cannot own the market."

And to help protect the small liquor store the law will not allow convenience stores to drop the price to below cost to get a bigger share of business.

Although convenience stores and grocers with an existing 3.2 license were able to convert immediately, those who apply for licenses in 2019 face more restrictions. Their stores cannot be within 500 feet of an existing liquor store or a school. Twenty percent of their gross total sales must be in food.

The old beer law had been in effect since 1935, two years after the end of Prohibition.

Getting the ban lifted took ten years of fierce debate in the Legislature. Each year it came up for consideration and each year the liquor store lobby was able to block it. Finally, faced with the certainty that the issue would be brought to a public vote, the lobby was forced to make concessions to avoid a huge onslaught of new competitors. One of the most controversial concessions was to allow eighteen-year-old employees to sell the beer although they would not be allowed to drink it until they were twenty-one.

Brewers were excited to see the change. They believe the market is there. A study conducted by 24/7 showed Colorado to be number 22 among the states in consumption of beer. According to the study, Coloradans drank 23.3 gallons of the stuff annually. Total state sales were 117.6 million gallons.

New Hampshire had the most beer drinkers, according to the data, ranking number one with 40.6 gallons drunk per capita yearly.

Some stores, like the Shell Convenience stores in Fraser and Hot Sulphur Springs, decided not to sell full-strength beer. But most will, industry officials predict.

Crystal Buckles, manager of a Stop & Save in Winter Park, is one who believes the new law is a good thing. "I definitely think it will up our sales," she said. "I know a lot of people really don't want to buy 3.2 beer. Once in a while a tourist from a state where it was available in convenience stores would inadvertently buy some."

DENVER — Colorado gasoline prices hit a two-year low last month.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded in the state was $2.18, but in some stations a motorist could get it for under $2.

Two years ago the same amount would cost $2.27. But a large supply and less demand forced the price down.

Colorado Springs was one of the sweet spots for drivers. The average price there was $2.016, but those who shopped around could find it for $1.72 if they could fork up cash, and if not, for $1.79 using credit cards.

Just a few months ago gasoline prices were closing in on $3 a gallon. But Denver last month averaged $2.06 and Boulder $2.07. "We had the largest week-to-week drop of any state," AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley said.

There were still some places in the state where gasoline was higher, especially in mountain areas. Vail averaged $2.70 and Glenwood Springs, $2.50.

BOULDER — While gasoline was selling cheap, one gas station offered a bargain no motorist had ever seen.

Consumers were happily filling their tanks for 2.5 cents a gallon at a Circle K/Shell station.

One researcher noted that even when cars were first out on the road, gas was twenty cents a gallon.

One driver reportedly put twelve-plus gallons into his vehicle for less than fifty cents at the Circle K. It was not known how long it took for management at the station to notice what a bargain was available.

COLORADO SPRINGS — On the other hand, getting a car wash at one facility here cost almost as much as a trip to the emergency room.

Six people were among those who reported sticker shock when they got their credit card bill statements after patronizing a National Pride self-service wash and found it cost hundreds of dollars for one wash.

One woman said she found $624 on her credit card bank statement for a single trip to the wash. Others reported tabs between a hundred and six hundred dollars.

Most were reimbursed by their banks, but the banks immediately set out to getting their money back. They discovered it was a card reader program at the car wash.

Genesys Technologies took the blame for the snafu and said they had put in a software update to the card readers at the wash to solve the problem and that those who hadn't already been reimbursed would receive refunds.

COLORADO SPRINGS — It seems convenience store robbers have adopted a fashion code that is frustrating law enforcement. They all look alike.

Police noted, "Most of these robberies that we've been having, the suspects are wearing hoodies and scarves. So we don't know if it's the same people."

An officer cited two robberies, one at a Loaf 'n Jug, the other soon after at a 7-Eleven, where a woman brandishing a gun wore a white hoodie and a dark bandanna in both cases.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Police found out that waking a man deep in sleep can be hazardous to your health.

When they spotted a man passed out in his car in the parking lot of a Kum & Go they tapped on his window to wake him up.

He jerked awake, put the car in reverse and slammed on the gas, hitting the cruiser. Then he sped away.

The cops thought they had a strong lead as they got the license plate but they learned it didn't belong to the car.

The cruiser sustained moderate damage.

Originally published in the February 2019 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2019 by KAL Publications Inc.

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