IGNACIO – Family Dollar, a grocery store in Ignacio, has been approved by the state to sell beer.
The Ignacio Town Board voted June 17 to approve Family Dollar’s off-premises “fermented malt beverage” license application. Because the corporation paid extra to fast-track the dual-level approval process, the state notified town managers Monday that it had been approved. Now, all Family Dollar has to do is wait for the paperwork to clear. The licensing change opens one more location for customers to buy beer in town and could make the local market more competitive.
“Alcohol is already sold in Ignacio. We’re just giving them the opportunity to get it in a one-stop location,” said Kathy Yocom, district manager for Family Dollar.
With an off-premises FMB license, Family Dollar can sell fermented malt beverages, like beer, and will not sell liquor or wine. Customers will be able to buy the beverages and drink them off-site.
Ignacio businesses and residents seem to be in support of the idea, according to survey results from Oedipus Inc., the firm that Family Dollar hired to survey the town. About 60% of businesses and 75% of residents said they would support issuing the license.
Most of the 46 business and resident respondents who opposed issuing the license told surveyors they didn’t think there was a need for it.
At last week’s meeting, security was one concern for board members. Family Dollar has cameras employees check three times a week and will have daily staff reminders about selling alcohol. The beer will be close to the register, and employees already have experience selling age-restricted items, like cigarettes, said Samantha Johnson, manager for the Family Dollar in Ignacio.
“My two concerns are hours of service and their training,” said Kirk Phillips, Ignacio chief of police. “They’ve answered that, so I don’t have any concerns.”
No community or business representatives from the town attended last week’s meeting or participated in the public comment period advertised by the board.
Family Dollar’s licensing is part of a statewide shift in the beer-sales landscape. On Jan. 1, Senate Bill 197 went into effect, lifting some restrictions on alcohol sales in retail stores, such as grocery stores and corner markets.
Those stores used to be limited to low-alcohol beverage sales, with a maximum of 3.2% alcohol by weight. As of January, licensed grocers and corner markets can stock their shelves with all full-strength beers, from craft to high-gravity to classic brands, wrote Suzi Karrer, communications manager for the Colorado Department of Revenue Enforcement Division, in an email to The Durango Herald.
Under the new law, grocery and convenience stores are likely to increase cumulative beer sales by 30% in 2019, said Steve Findley, executive director at the Colorado Beer Distribution Association. However, liquor store owners expect that their beer sales could drop by 30% if retail stores become a significant competitor, Findley said.
One of the three other alcohol sale locations, Wells Liquor South, is ready to face the competition, said Emily Archuleta, the store manager.
“Obviously, we want to be the only liquor store in town, but since we aren’t, we welcome all competition,” Archuleta said.
Archuleta and Chris Cushing, the proprietor of Pinon Liquors, both said that their business would be challenged if Family Dollar drops its prices.
Cushing estimates that his beer revenues have fallen by 10% and attributes the loss to SB 197. He was not in support of Family Dollar’s licensing and is somewhat worried about the new competition in town.
“I have to go the extra mile. It’s what small business owners will have to do,” Cushing said.
Wells Liquor and Piñon Liquor customers will still be able to do all of their beer, wine and liquor shopping in one place, unlike at Family Dollar, Archuleta said.
“There’s a loyalty in these small towns. People are loyal to Piñon or they’re loyal to us,” she said. “We’ll see what happens, I guess.”