Some interesting stories from Colorado right now, where the supermarkets are not allowed to sell beer above 3.2% (by weight, not volume). This sounds like the watered down versions of beers you can find in Swedish supermarkets, which I can assure you is pretty bland stuff.
They used to sell some of the 3.2 beer on Sundays, but not any longer. The reason is that the liquor stores throughout the state are now allowed to open on Sundays, and they sell real beer.
This is, of course, a cosy arrangement for the liquor stores. There are about 1650 of them, and, they are, apparently, independent businesses, while the supermarkets tend to be franchises.
To make this more complicated, some of the craft brewers have teamed up with the liquor stores to argue that the present system gives the consumers a better choice.
According to the Associated Press, Brewers say beer selection could suffer if corporate buyers, rather than independent owners, are deciding which brands end up on the shelves.
Eric Wallace, president of Left Hand Brewery in Longmont and head of the Colorado Brewers Guild, said Colorado’s network of 1,650 independent liquor stores has helped foster what he said is the nation’s highest concentration of craft brewers.
The present system sounds fine in principle, but when you give a certain segment of the market a monopoly, you open for lots of interesting deals behind the scenes. What if someone opens a liquor store next door to a supermarket, maybe in the same building? Maybe someone makes sure that they pay a low rent to establish themselves where they will draw traffic to the other shops in the building or area?
I’m sorry, but at the end of the day, free markets where everyone competes on the same terms and a freedom of choice for consumers is the only viable option. And I think the best of the Colorado craft brewers will be doing just fine out in the market, even if it’s cold out there…