Major changes to state liquor laws go into effect starting Jan. 1

Consumers can expect to see full-strength beer offered in Colorado grocery and convenience stores beginning in the new year

DENVER, Tuesday, December 18, 2018 – As of January 1, consumers will be able to buy full-strength beer at grocery and convenience stores in Colorado that previously sold 3.2% beer due to new state liquor laws passed in 2016 by the Colorado General Assembly.

“These new regulations are some of the largest, sweeping changes to the state’s liquor laws since prohibition,” said Patrick Maroney, Liquor Enforcement Division Director. “The Liquor Enforcement Division has worked with our stakeholders, licensees, and local partners to educate and inform those impacted by the liquor law changes about what they can expect in 2019. Since 2016, we have identified how the new regulatory framework will affect manufacturers, wholesaler, retailers and consumers in Colorado.”

The changes to state liquor laws in Colorado were part of an industry regulatory transformation approved by the state legislature in 2016 (SB16-197) and expanded on with additional legislation passed in 2018 (SB18-243). The changes to the governing enforcement laws of the liquor industry in Colorado are complex and affect a variety of activities concerning the manufacturing, selling and purchasing of beer. Other areas affected by the new laws include deliveries, cost of goods sold, the age of employees, purchasing and distribution practices, license types, ownership, tasting, distance restrictions, and public consumption.

While the modifications to liquor laws are significant for the liquor industry, consumers may also experience changes to how and where they purchase beer in Colorado. Some of the changes to the new liquor laws affecting consumers include:

  • Starting on January 1, 2019, consumers will be able to purchase beer over 0.5% sold at retail locations that previously sold only 3.2% beer. New retailers may also begin selling beer after January 1, 2019, as long as they derive, at least, 20 percent of their gross total sales annual revenues from the sale of food items for consumption off their premises.
  • Wholesalers and manufacturers cannot deliver beer to grocery stores until after midnight on December 31, 2018; consumers may see empty shelves and areas in stores before New Year’s Day as retailers prepare for the change. Consumers can purchase beer over 0.5% at grocery and convenience stores starting at 8 a.m. on January 1, 2019. 
  • Where consumers can buy wine, sake, malt liquor and spirits has not changed. Changes to recent liquor laws only affect beer sales. Malt, vinous or spirituous liquor may be purchased at licensed retail liquor stores or Liquor-Licensed Drugstores (grocery stores with LLDS license, and an attached pharmacy, permitted to sell all types of alcohol).
  • The new law does not allow consumers to purchase beer at a self-checkout without assistance from and completion of the entire transaction by an employee of the licensed retail location.
  • Lower percentage strength beer (3.2% beer) may still be available in Colorado after January 1, 2019, as retailers may want to offer this option for consumers and as the market demands the product. However, there is no mandate that retailers sell beer 3.2% or less. 
  • After January 1, 2019, employees have to be at least 18 years of age to handle alcohol. The age to purchase alcohol has not changed and remains 21 years and older.

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Lawrence Pacheco, Director of Communications, DOR

303-866-5303 | 720-305-8687 (c) |

Suzanne Karrer, Enforcement Communications Specialist, DOR

303-866-6588 |