Is that glass half-empty or half-full? Just in time for the next First Friday -- the gaggle of gallery openings around town tomorrow, July 6 -- Colorado Lawyers for the Arts has posted a summary of liquor laws compiled by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses and the Office of Cultural Affairs. Although the document was done by Denver (and vetted by the City Attorneys' Office), liquor laws are dictated by the state, so the information applies across Colorado. And it's not good news.
Short of applying for an actual liquor permit, there's no way a gallery can serve alcohol -- not even free alcohol -- at an opening that's truly open to the public. Not legally, at least.
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And if a gallery does it illegally? The otherwise very helpful document does not address the odds that a gallery will be busted by the city (which would only be doing the state's dirty work), but does note:
Serving alcohol without a permit or license can result in possible civil or criminal liability. Examples of criminal liability include: violations of the Colorado Liquor Code are a class 2 petty offense, which carries a penalty of 3-12 months in prison, a fine of $250, or both; serving alcohol to an intoxicated person, or under-aged person, or sells liquor without the proper license is a class 1 petty offense, which carries a penalty of 6-18 months in prison, a $250 fine, or both. Civil liabilities may arise if you knowingly serve someone who is under 21 or who is a “habitual drunkard.”
Sometime this summer, Colorado Lawyers for the Arts and the city's Office of Cultural Affairs plan to offer a workshop for arts groups, to expand on the information contained in the document and also discuss plans for the future -- say, finding a state lawmaker willing to propose legislation that would allow galleries to serve booze at First Fridays.
In a city so proud of its creative class, there has to be a creative way to solve this dilemma, and show off Denver's liquid assets as well as its art. -- Patricia Calhoun