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    Two States Cast Votes to Advance Alcohol Bills

    Iowa and Colorado lawmakers favor increasing alcohol options at convenience stores.

    DES MOINES, Iowa -- Bills aimed at letting convenience stores offer more alcoholic products are winding their way through the capital buildings of Iowa and Colorado.

    Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad is reviewing a bill that would make it easier for convenience stores to sell hard liquor after the state Senate voted 33 to 14 in favor of the measure. The legislative body also rejected an effort by the Des Moines City Council to let the council approve new liquor licenses for stores in crime-ridden neighborhoods. In addition, if signed into law, convenience stores will no longer be required to have a separate entrance to the area where they sell the hard liquor, according to RadioIowa.com.

    Currently, approximately 50 convenience stores sell hard liquor. The Alcoholic Beverage Commission added that it is hard to estimate how many more would be added to that number if the governor signs the bill into law.

    In Colorado, the fight centers around full-strength beer. After a seven-hour debate, the House Economic and Business Development Committee approved a bill that would allow c-stores and grocery stores to sell full-strength beer by a 7-to-6 vote. The measure now moves to the House floor, where more debate is expected, reported The Denver Business Journal.

    Currently, convenience stores and grocery stores are only allowed to sell reduced-strength beer; the proposed measure would change all that but still exclude wine and spirits. The bill would also allow individuals to receive licenses to open more than one liquor store, which is not allowed now. And it would allow liquor stores to sell non-perishable food. As the news outlet reported, c-stores and grocery stores have been fighting for this since the legislature voted in 2008 to allow liquor stores to open on Sundays, taking away the highest day of sales for low-strength beer. This is the first time, however, that a measure has made it as far as the floor of the House or Senate.

    Rep. Larry Liston (R-Colorado Springs), one of the sponsors of the bill, said throughout the hearing that the bill was about serving the needs of consumers and creating jobs at grocery and convenience stores. "Consumers are smart and savvy. They know what they want. What they want is choice and flexibility," Liston said. "Competition is good in any industry."

    But not everyone in Colorado is in favor of the bill. According to the The Denver Business Journal, a coalition of liquor store owners and craft brewers contend that the entry of big-box national retailers into the beer sale business will close liquor stores and hurt the sales of independent beer makers. And opponents of the bill said it punishes those industries by taking the 75-year-old rules under which they have operated and throwing them out the window come July 2012.

     

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