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Let's improve liquor laws


Imagine going to a bar sometime well after midnight, knowing you can sleep in tomorrow. Imagine sitting there with friends, having several drinks at a slow pace, without having to guzzle them as fast as you can.

Imagine walking out of the bar around 3:30 or 4 a.m., still in good shape to join the group for a pre-dawn breakfast, if only because you didn't have to slam 'em down before a 1:30 last call.

No, that wouldn't have to be in a foreign country. It's a typical Friday night in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., where the Routons spent about 2 years during the journey that eventually led back to Colorado Springs and the Independent.

When you live in other places, Florida and Texas in our case, you can't help but appreciate the small things that would be nice to see changed here.

That list has to start with one special subject: liquor laws.

If you've only lived in Colorado, you wouldn't know the difference. And granted, there are other states with liquor laws that aren't noticeably better or worse.

Go to Florida, though, and you appreciate the details. Granted, Fort Walton Beach (in the Panhandle, home to the sprawling Eglin Air Force Base), had even looser bar hours than most, courtesy of a local decision. One place actually would close at 5:30 a.m. and reopen at 6. But after many years of going out late and closing bars in the newspaper business, I found it interesting how the after-midnight crowd there rarely needed designated drivers.

There's more. In Florida and most of Texas, you go the supermarket and buy beer (real beer, all the time, not the 3.2 stuff) as well as wine, seven days a week. In both states, you had to wait until 1 p.m. on Sundays, but then you could grab your favorite lager or cabernet just down the aisle from the bread or produce. Same with convenience stores, though their wine selection was usually low-end stuff.

Florida's liquor stores also can open on Sundays, which means not having to stock up early, or going out late Saturday and possibly taking a chance.

It all makes so much sense, and it makes you wonder why Colorado never has come out of the Dark Ages.

There is one tradeoff in Florida and Texas, but it's palatable. They force liquor stores to close earlier, either at 9 p.m. (Texas) or 10 p.m. (Florida). But for beer and wine, you're good until midnight at the grocery stores.

Don't try to suggest that supermarkets selling wine and full-strength beer would kill the liquor stores. In Florida and Texas, both prospered. You'd find a better wine selection at liquor stores, but supermarkets had plenty to offer at comparable prices, including wines from California, France and Europe, Australia, South Africa and South America.

Then you come back to Colorado, and its prehistoric laws.

Come on, 3.2 beer? Wasn't that a big deal back in the days when kids 18 to 21 could drink legally?

The time has come for Colorado to check out other states and revise its laws. We would also suggest permitting bars to stay open as late as they want, but Colorado probably isn't ready for that. So let's just stick with what works so well elsewhere, as easy as 1-2-3.

First, beer and wine at grocery stores. If it works in Texas, where the Baptists have a lot more clout, why not in Colorful Colorado?

Second, no more 3.2 beer. It should be the same at Safeway as at Coaltrain though liquor stores would have more choices and microbrews. If the beer distributors wouldn't have to worry about 3.2, you might see better prices.

Third, let the liquor stores open on Sundays if they so choose. Most folks aren't working anyway, and they shouldn't be penalized if they forgot to pick up that bottle of Jack Daniel's or schnapps on Saturday.

Some might say the state Legislature has other priorities on its plate. But if the lawmakers can spend time debating the size of county planning commissions, they can make our lives more convenient when we want a six-pack of full-strength Sam Adams or a bottle of Mondavi.

It's one time when we can learn from other states. Even Florida and Texas.

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