Some Colorado grocery/chain stores with full-strength liquor licenses

Albertsons, 7450 S. University Ave., Centennial

Alfalfa's Market 1651 Broadway, Boulder

Cost Plus World Market, 2500 E. First Ave., Denver

Costco Wholesale, 7900 W. Quincy Ave., Denver

King Soopers, 4600 Leetsdale Drive, Glendale

Kmart Supercenter, 1400 E. 104th Ave., Thornton

Rite-Aid (dba Keg Liquors), 2870 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver

Safeway, 181 W. Mineral Ave., Littleton

Sam's Club, 4827 S. Wadsworth Way, Denver

SuperTarget, 4301 E. Virginia Ave., Glendale

Whole Foods (dba Merchant of Vino) (closing Saturday), 7400 E. Hampden Ave., Denver

Boulder, which one month ago became home to its first grocery store to sell full-strength alcohol, may soon have two.

Whole Foods Market is closing its Merchant of Vino wine and spirits shop at its Tamarac Square location in south Denver, and it appears to be finalizing plans to instead have its one liquor-licensed store -- a limitation under Colorado law -- be based in Boulder, where new competitor Alfalfa's is operating a full-strength liquor store.


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Sang Lee, owner of Ace Wine & Spirits in Boulder, confirmed Thursday that Whole Foods is acquiring his store that borders the newly expanded Whole Foods, at 2905 Pearl St., on the east.

A store employee, who declined to be named, said Thursday that Whole Foods will take ownership of the location Monday.

The move would come after the resurrected Alfalfa's Market, a natural grocer at 1651 Broadway, opened its "flagship" Boulder location with a "store-within-a-store" wine, beer and spirits shop.

Ace Wine & Spirits, next to Whole Foods on Pearl Street in Boulder, is being acquired by Whole Foods. The move comes a month after Alfalfa’s Market,
Ace Wine & Spirits, next to Whole Foods on Pearl Street in Boulder, is being acquired by Whole Foods. The move comes a month after Alfalfa's Market, a natural grocer at 1651 Broadway, opened with a full-strength wine, beer and spirits shop. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

"This is our first store and it's our hometown, our original location ... we thought it would be most appropriate to have that wine, beer and spirits shop here in Boulder," said Sonja Tuitele, an Alfalfa's spokeswoman. "In the month that we've been open, we've had very good feedback from customers that this creates an added level of convenience for them."

While chain stores and grocery retailers are allowed to sell beer less than 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, Colorado's liquor laws allow establishments to apply for one liquor license.

Some chains have done so by applying for a retail liquor store license -- with limitations including no food sales, separate hours and a separate entrance -- or for a liquor-licensed drugstore, a Prohibition-era law that then allowed pharmacies to dispense liquor with a prescription and now requires an operating pharmacy and a pharmacist present at least 50 percent of the time.

Since 2005, Whole Foods has used its retail liquor license to operate the Merchant of Vino shop in south Denver. Merchant of Vino employees are telling customers that the store is closing Sunday.

Earlier this month, Whole Foods filed documents with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office for the Whole Foods Wine and Spirits trade name and also registered "Whole Foods Wine & Spirits" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Whole Foods officials declined to comment. As of Thursday, the city of Boulder did not have a transfer-of-license application or a new license application from Whole Foods.

If Alfalfa's does indeed gain a Boulder competitor in the grocery-operated liquor store arena, Tuitele said she believes the one-store company is nimble enough to provide a unique experience and a collection of organic and local craft brews, wines and spirits.

"I think, obviously, when there wasn't a food retailer that had a liquor license (in Boulder), any food retailer might look at the opportunity to compete at that level," Tuitele said. "I think (Boulder) is a community where people enjoy a great meal paired with a great bottle of wine or a nice, cold, locally made beer."

King Soopers and Safeway each hold a drugstore liquor license for one Denver-area location.

The liquor department in King Soopers' 6-month-old Glendale store has been seven years in the making, spokeswoman Kelli McGannon said, noting the surrounding demographics supported the decision.

"You only get one chance to do it right," she said.

When Safeway opened its store off Mineral Road and Broadway in Littleton in 2007, officials decided to include a liquor department because of the demographics and the fact that the store was built from scratch, said Kris Staaf, a Safeway spokeswoman.

Highlighting the 4,000-square-foot section's "broad selection" of wines and Colorado craft beer, Staaf said Safeway officials have tried to leverage the customer response to help in the fight to allow Colorado grocery stores to carry full-strength alcohol.

"It's frustrating for us because we do have customer demand," she said. "From the (most recent beer legislation), we had over 30,000 signatures from customers around the state."

She added that the "roughly a dozen or so" liquor stores that were within a 7-mile radius of the Safeway when it opened are still operating today, and an additional three have opened.

Contact Camera Business Writer Alicia Wallace at 303-473-1332 or wallacea@dailycamera.com.