Colorado revenue officials block new full-strength beer rules

on 06/03/11 at 9:05 pm

Industry

The Colorado Department of Revenue (DOR) has issued an emergency order repealing new rules requiring breweries to test, label and certify that their beers contain a high-enough alcohol content to be sold at bars and liquor stores in this state.

The state’s convenience-store interests, which had worked to pass the rule in a 2010 legislative bill, questioned Friday why a rule that had gone through a six-month hearing process and was implemented just two months ago should be gutted by an executive agency.

They acknowledged that DOR’s emergency repeal could make their goal of changing the law to allow them to sell full-strength beer more difficult.

Colorado law stipulates that grocery and convenience stores can sell only beer that is 4 percent alcohol by volume or lower, a rule that the store groups have been trying to change since 2008.

But it also stipulates that bars, breweries and liquor stores cannot sell beer below 4 percent alcohol by volume — a clause that has rarely been enforced.

With low-alcohol beers like Budweiser Select 55 and Amstel Light becoming more popular, convenience-store interests inserted into Senate Bill 83 in 2010 a provision that breweries making or selling beer in Colorado must certify its strength to determine where it can be sold. That meant liquor stores and bars had to stop selling certain products and recodified that the state can test beers to determine their alcohol content.

Liquor stores, bars, breweries and convenience and grocery stores wrangled over the imposition of the bill for months, and a late draft of the bill exempted brewpubs from the new rules, angering convenience and liquor stores. But that clause was removed and the new rules went into effect on Jan. 1.

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