© 2024 KVNF Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Closure of U.S. 50 affecting delivery of beer and beverages to Lake City

Lake City Liquors is the only liquor store in the tiny town of Lake City, Colorado
Laura Palmisano
Lake City Liquors is the only liquor store in the tiny town of Lake City, Colorado.

The bridge closure on U.S. 50 between Montrose and Gunnison is affecting the delivery of beer and other beverages to the remote mountain town of Lake City. Local restaurants and the town's only liquor store are seeing delays in receiving shipments. According to one restaurant owner, some vendors are even saying they won't deliver at all.

However, this could change as transportation officials say starting Thursday, May 9, trailers and commercial motor vehicles meeting certain dimension and weight requirements will be allowed to use the Lake City Cutoff. The bypass is a high-mountain dirt road being used as a local alternative route to access Montrose and Gunnison, but it can't handle U.S. 50's normal traffic load. The cutoff is open only at certain times of the day and guided by a pilot car.

For KVNF, Laura Palmisano speaks to Tyler Crump, co-owner of Lake City Liquors, about the impacts the bridge closure and restrictions on the cutoff are having on the store and the regional delivery of goods.

Palmisano: How has the closure of U.S. 50 impacted your business?

Tyler Crump: You know we were on vacation when the closure happened. So we kind of came back to all this fun news and reached out to our distributors. Luckily, most of our liquor and wine comes from Denver. So there's not going to be a lot of interruption there. Unfortunately, about three-quarters of our beer products come from Grand Junction. So, we have one distributor who they've put a plan in place and we have another one who's a little more unsure of what the future is going to look like. So far, we've missed at least two delivery dates — they've been pushed back on us into later this month. We're getting mixed messages on what the summer is really going to look like. They've told us to plan on some interruptions, maybe pad our orders a little bit. We might have some delayed orders. We really don't know. Thankfully, the two people that we work with, we've had good working relationships for years at this point. So they're doing everything they can on their end. But at the end of the day, they're just the distributor: they don't make the decisions. This is way above their heads or pay grade or however you want to label it. So we're kind of in a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation at the moment. Thankfully, this is happening during our slower time of year.

Palmisano: Two distributors out of Grand Junction for most of your beer product. I know it's still early, but are you considering maybe changing vendors? Or I know some businesses are like, ‘do I have to go and pick up the delivery myself?’

Crump: Basically, you have two main beer distributors. You have Coors Miller Light, which handles about two-thirds of our beer product. And then we have another distributor, Central. In a perfect world, we would have all of this shipped up to us from Alamosa. However, the way distributing works and territory contracts and all of the above, we are assigned to a certain territory. Therefore, our product has to legally come from a certain hub. And that's the tricky situation. As of right now since they're, somewhat, conveniently located in Grand Junction, they can hop on 70, they go to Leadville, and they come down over Monarch.

The issue is, with the trucking side of things, there's federally mandated rules and regulations when it comes to driving trucks. You're only allowed so many hours on the road a day, you're only allowed so many hours on the road a week, and you can only fit so much product on a truck. So, it's just a big matrix of coordination on figuring out what driver can get where and by when, how much they can carry, and certain things like that.

I found out from our Miller Coors representative that Gunnison/Crested Butte might feel a bigger impact than us here in Lake City. Because being the only liquor store are their largest account along with all of the other restaurants, we can actually all fit on one big truck. So, every other week is the plan that they'll continue with their schedule and be able to get to Lake City and knock it all out at once.

Whereas Gunnison and Crested Butte is much busier. There’s five, six liquor stores, dozens of restaurants and establishments and convenience stores. They've been limited on how much product that area can receive on each truck or multiple runs of trucks. So they're actually going to be in a little more of a predicament on priority of sales and who gets what. There's going to be a little bit more complications on their end. So I've been told.

Palmisano: Is there anything else you want to add?

Crump: We live in Lake City. We've been here for seven years at this point. I think we have a good idea that you just have to prepare for the unexpected. You live in the most remote [county] in the lower 48 and these things are just going to happen.

Laura joined KVNF in 2014. She was the news director for two years and now works as a freelance reporter covering Colorado's Western Slope. Laura is an award-winning journalist with work recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Broadcasters Association, and RTDNA. In 2015, she was a fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism. Her fellowship project, a three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colorado, received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.