Local attorney helps craft grocery store alcohol bill
May 10, 2016
Steamboat Springs — A Steamboat Springs attorney is helping shape a game-changing liquor bill being considered by legislators in Denver that would allow full strength beer, wine and liquor sales in grocery stores.
The Feldman Nagel law firm has offices in Boulder, Denver, Vail and Steamboat. David Nagel, a partner in the firm, recently opened Feldman Nagel Public Affairs.
“For us, it was kind of a natural progression,” Nagel said. “The related skill sets translate well from being a lawyer to a lobbyist.”
Nagel said many of his law firm’s clients have issues that pertain to legislation. Now, instead of sitting back to see what happens, his clients can have a voice in the legislative process.
Nagel landed Walmart as his first client.
“Obviously with the skill sets of that firm, they’ve put together quite an assembly of folks,” said Collon Kennedy, a lobbyist who has worked for Walmart for nearly 20 years.
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Walmart is one of numerous stakeholders providing input on Senate Bill 197.
Nagel said for the past two weeks, working on the bill has meant marathon meetings, as the stakeholders try to reach a compromise. On Tuesday morning, they worked until 1 a.m.
The bill is being considered as a group collects signatures to place the issue on a ballot. Fearing voters would support the sale of full-strength alcohol in grocery stores, some liquor store owners are hoping for a compromise bill to keep the issue from appearing on the ballot.
The bill passed the Senate Monday on a 31-4 vote. The House's Business Affairs and Labor Committee passed it 8-3 on Tuesday, along with the Appropriations committee. It will next be voted on by the full House, and if approved, will go to Gov. John Hickenlooper for final approval.
Other grocery stores have joined Walmart in the lobbying effort, and Nagel said other people working on the bill include representatives from craft brewers, major beer manufacturers, distributors and liquor stores.
“It’s pretty much a complete revisit of the liquor code," Nagel said.
The current form of the bill calls for allowing retail stores to transition to full-strength alcohol sales over a 20-years period. A retailer such as Walmart — with 100 locations in Colorado — could have a maximum of 20 locations with full-strength alcohol sales at the end of the 20-year period. The limit on the number of locations would sunset after 20 years. In the first five years, retailers could have five locations with full-strength alcohol sales.
“After 20 years, it’s a free market,” Nagel said.
Nagel said during the first 20 years, retailers would have to perform market research to decide which of their locations would sell full-strength alcohol.
The bill is not that simple though.
It also includes language that addresses the proximity of the retail stores to liquor stores. If a grocery store wanted to sell full-strength alcohol, it would have to essentially buy out two liquor stores by purchasing their licenses, and if there were an existing liquor store within 1,500 feet of the retail store, the retail store would have to buy that liquor store’s license.
“It does give the liquor stores control,” Nagel said.
In a news release, State Rep. Clarice Navarro, who sits on the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee, explained why she supported the bill.
"After a great deal of testimony today, I voted for Senate Bill 197, and I’m pleased with the compromises that were made that made this a bill that the small businesses in my district and across the state could support," she said. "I’m always leery about bills that come before the state legislature that will have a negative impact on small businesses. I’m pleased with the end result, and I will continue to support the small businesses that provide so many jobs to the people of this great state."