Brewpub's dream of delivery service in Colorado Springs comes up suds
Steve Stowell thought he had found a loophole in Colorado's liquor laws that would allow his Triple S Brewing Co. to become the first brew pub in the state to offer beer delivery.
That loophole closed on him Tuesday after he made his first - and last - delivery of a 32-ounce "growler" of Triple S beer to BombBomb, a software company in downtown Colorado Springs.
Colorado Revenue Department officials determined late Tuesday after a review of state law and regulations that "brew pubs are not allowed to deliver to the consumer," Ro Silva, the department's acting communications director, said in a email sent about a half hour after the delivery was completed. "We have informed the business that by Colorado law, it cannot offer delivery."
Although Stowell said he received an email from an investigator from the department's Liquor Enforcement Division that he could legally make such deliveries, Silva said that email "was taken out of context." Silva said Triple S will not face any disciplinary action from the division because the delivery was made based on a "miscommunication."
Stowell suspended the delivery service after he informed by the division that it was not legal under his license.
Under Colorado law, only retail liquor stores, drugstores with a liquor license or businesses that are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages with 3.2 percent or less alcohol content on or off-premises can offer delivery services.
"I thought I had permission, but it turned out that I did not. It could have been an innovative, interesting thing. Unfortunately, it is not," Stowell said.
The businessman had planned to launch the three-afternoon-a-week service to homes and businesses in the 80903 ZIP Code, which includes downtown.
"In business, you need to be cheapest, first or different. This is both first and different. We will be the first brew pub in the state to deliver," Stowell said Tuesday before making the delivery. "Everybody loves the idea and has asked me when does it come to my ZIP Code? My answer is when it gains traction, we will expand it."
Stowell worked for nearly two years to open his Triple S brew pub, which he co-owns with wife, Sarah Stowell, with eight employees at 318 W. Colorado Ave. He began writing the business plan and taking business classes from the Service Corps Of Retired Executives and the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the Army Special Forces in October 2014. He said he contacted the Liquor Enforcement Division nine months ago to determine the viability of the delivery loophole he believed he had discovered in his brew pub license.
A native of upstate New York, Stowell joined the Army and became a Ranger about five years into his 20-year career. Among many stops in his career, he served with the 10th Special Forces at Fort Carson in 2001-03 and returned to the Springs to launch a Special Forces unit attached to Northern Command just before retiring. He got the idea for beer delivery while stationed with the Army in Germany where beer delivery is common in many small villages - small breweries have delivered wooden crates of 12 1-liter bottles to homes for centuries.
"It's just like the milkman of the 1950s," Stowell said before the delivery. "I compare it to pizza delivery today - we bring fresh product, ring the doorbell, see your ID (to confirm the recipient is at least 21 years old), hand you a full growler, and you hand us the empty bottles."
Stowell said he opened the brew pub because he wanted to "teach people about craft beer. Although Colorado Springs is one of the top four cities in the nation (on a per person basis) for consuming craft beer, only about 10 percent of the adult population has indicated in surveys that they drink craft beer. I am trying to win over that other 90 percent that don't drink craft beer by hosting beer tasting and pairing beer with certain foods." Beside its menu of award-winning beers, Triple S also offers craft-brewed sodas, coffee and kombucha (Japanese fermented tea).
Springs residents who want beer, wine or other alcoholic beverages delivered to their homes still have another option: Cheers Liquor Mart, 1105 N. Circle Drive, has offered home a delivery service covering the metro area for more than 20 years.
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