Colorado to Ban Light & Low-Calorie Beer in Bars?

by Michelle Minton on December 2, 2010 · 1 comment

in Nanny State, Personal Liberty, Regulation

Next year bars and dine-in restaurants in Colorado might be forced by law to stop selling light, low-calorie, and low-alcohol beers.

Any beer under 4% alcohol by volume would technically not be a malt beverage and in Colorado bars and restaurants are only licensed to sell liquor, wine, and malt liquor. While the provision isn’t new the new enforcement of the code may mean that by next year bars may have to stop selling light and low-calorie beers like Amstel, Heineken, Yeungling, Michelob, MGD 64, Bud Select 55, and even some non-light beers like Murphy’s Irish Stout; all of which come in under 4% ABV. At the same time, grocery and convenience stores will continue to sell beers that fall under the 3.2% alcohol by volume threshold.

That number, 3.2% might sound familiar if you’ve followed my coverage of the Colorado beer-in-grocery-store fight that has been raging in the state in recent years. Currently, Colorado grocery stores can sell beer as long as it is less than 3.2% alcohol by volume. In recent years grocery and convenience store owners have made a push, challenging the laws and asking that they be allowed to sell full-strength beer-currently only available in liquor stores, restaurants, and bars. Liquor store lobbyist have been able, thus far, to thwart such attempts and last year, after another failed effort, grocery store owners and their supporters in the legislature amended a bill that would require the liquor laws in the state to be enforced to the letter.

“Either stop selling the product we sell, or let’s stop having this false delineation on beer,” said Jason Hopfer, lobbyist for a group of convenience stores. “Let’s let beer be beer.”

It seems that the grocery and convenience store owners are employing a strategy whereby the customer and bar owners will be as inconvenienced as they are and perhaps they will be incensed enough to call their representatives and vote down the silly state laws.

It might actually work. Parties that have thus stayed away from the debate are suddenly taking an interest:

Pub owner Patrick Schaetzl had this to say:

It’s ridiculous…I don’t understand why the nanny state would (ban beers) when the other stuff is three, four and five times more alcohol by volume. It’s going to hurt a lot of places.
While Pete Meersman, president of the Colorado Restaurant Association said:
“We’re not really involved in this fight,” said “Our members feel like they ought to be able to sell the stuff. “
Patrons, too, are beginning to see their stake in the fight. Two bar patrons interviewed by the Denver Post added:
“In a lot of ways, they’re safer beers to drink,” said Maloney, who sticks to low-alcohol beer when he’s skiing. “It’s really just another way for state government to make things complicated.”
While liquor stores are already drafting bills to cut-off the latest grocery-store strategy, perhaps Coloradans will begin to see what Maloney, Meersman, Schaetzl, and convenience stores see: the state government of Colorado should not be telling business owners and grown adults what drinks they can buy where.

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