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Friday, October 22, 2010

Vote Yes on I-1100

Posted by on Fri, Oct 22, 2010 at 11:02 AM

(This guest Slog post is by Ashley Bach, spokesman for the Yes to 1100 campaign. More info on the measure is in the voters' guide.)

State liquor stores are ugly and hard to find, with bad hours, lousy customer service, little choice, astronomical prices, and very few locations. They are an insulting relic of the Prohibition era and make no sense for Washington today. Beer and wine fills up aisles and aisles at our grocery and convenience stores, while liquor is stuck in some retail wilderness out of the Eastern bloc.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Olympia know the system is broken, and privatizing our state’s liquor sales has been officially “under consideration” for decades. But our Legislature, consumed by special interests, has failed to act, and there is no hope in sight that it ever will.

Enter Initiative 1100, which gives voters the ability to reform the liquor system ourselves, and do it in a smart and responsible way.

I-1100 closes all state liquor stores by December 2011 and allows private retailers currently selling beer and wine to sell liquor. These stores already sell alcohol—liquor will just be another product available on their shelves. Many eligible stores will choose not to sell liquor because it won’t pencil out for them.

After all, beer and wine already account for 68 percent of alcohol consumption in this country. Beer also accounts for 67 percent of our country’s binge drinking, and is the preferred beverage for drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You won’t see those stats in the “No” campaign ads funded by Big Beer and the beer distributors.

In all the major alcohol metrics—alcohol consumption, underage drinking, DUI arrests—the 32 states that have privatized their liquor sales and are doing the same, and in many cases better, than the 18 states with state-run stores.

I-1100 will help make our state safer because our liquor board will no longer be focused on selling as much alcohol as possible, while it’s supposed to also be responsible for enforcing alcohol laws. How can the regulator regulate itself?

I-1100 is also fiscally responsible. Unlike I-1105, I-1100 keeps all liquor taxes—which generate $224 million a year—in place. What goes away under I-1100 is the 51.9 percent markup that makes our liquor the most expensive in the country.

Even without the markup, I-1100’s estimated impact on state government is less than one-tenth of one percent of the general fund, and one-tenth of one percent of each local government’s budget. Even those state estimates are far too high, and will be made up by local B&O tax on liquor—a completely new revenue source under I-1100—and potentially increased liquor tax revenue.

It’s time for Washington to join the majority of states and allow liquor sales in private stores. Vote Yes on 1100.


Comments (14) RSS

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WAIT! you mean a person won't have to drive(after having one or two drinks) across town to a state run liquor store if the Sunday BBQ runs out of gin? i could just run across the street and pick up a bottle at the local store! WOW sensible and environmentally sensitive!! go 1100
Posted by SAILAWAY on October 22, 2010 at 11:07 AM · Report this
all of these yes no yes no yes no posts are starting to confuse me
Posted by Taller Than You on October 22, 2010 at 11:14 AM · Report this
Fnarf 3
What's this crap about "currently selling beer and wine"? I want NEW liquor stores, not just grocery stores. My wine shop is too small to carry much if any liquor.
Posted by Fnarf on October 22, 2010 at 11:18 AM · Report this
internet_jen 4
I want an initiative that includes language requiring online inventory database like this:…

Also I live w/in walking distance of 2 liquor stores, so I don't understand this lack of store locations you talk about.

I do want more Caribbean rum though. They've got like millions, we've got like 2.
Posted by internet_jen on October 22, 2010 at 11:46 AM · Report this
TacomaRoma 5
Yes, by all means vote for I-1100 if:

* You LOVE Wal Mart and think they deserve more money at the expense of fire protection, emergency services, law enforcement and education.
* You HATE our local microbrew industry and would prefer that Budcoorsmiller be the beer of choice on every grocery store in the state.
* You LOVE big-chain restaurants and think that their power to clinch volume discounts from liquor distributors should be fully brought to bear on the local restaurants and bars of the state.
* You HATE that kids are limited to drinking beer and wine because that's all they can really access in grocery and convenience stores.
* You LOVE bullet-proof glass and steel bars on the windows of your local "package stores" and really enjoy reading the police blotter to find out how many liquor stores were robbed over the weekend.

Folks, this is not an either/or situation. If we want these liquor laws changed, we can do it without voting for initiatives written by Costco, Wal Mart and Big Beer. We have enough government by big business already, thank you very much. I'll keep my quaint little state liquor stores and their estimated $300 million dollars in annual revenue until we get a reasonable bill through the legislature that doesn't screw everyone except the biggest corporate bullies on the block.

And the convenience argument? If you're having trouble finding a liquor store, go here:…

In fact, why don't you take a good look at the entire site and ask yourself, "If sales are privatized, can I expect this kind of one-stop shop for information on my liquor?" I'll give you a hint: NO!

No on i-1100/i-1105
Posted by TacomaRoma on October 22, 2010 at 12:28 PM · Report this
Dougsf 6
@5 - Budcoorsmiller is who's paying for the opposition, i.e., your position.

None of your other points are supported by reason, or examples of outcomes in other non-control states, besides the idea that large stores that can buy in bulk stand to make money. So? The state tax on liquor will remain.

Side note: New York will always have "bodegas", Detroit will always have "party stores", and Seattle will always have "corner stores." I don't expect the term "liquor store" will be ever become Washingtonian's preferred nomenclature for a small grocery or convenience store that sells booze.
Posted by Dougsf on October 22, 2010 at 12:44 PM · Report this
If either initiative passes, the state loses money from liquor sales. We don't need to fuck up the state budget just to buy us a drank more easily.
Posted by The CHZA on October 22, 2010 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Initiatives written by a single industry inevitably end up benefitting that industry at the expense of the public. I'm voting NO on both.
Posted by Citizen R on October 22, 2010 at 12:54 PM · Report this
Foghorn Leghorn 9
@6 The Beer Institute is funding the opposition. It is an industry group representing the entire Beer Industry, and yes, it is largely funded by the big guys, but it also represents Beer as a whole (though the WA Brewers Guild is looking out for our little guys far more than the BI.). The big brewers are against 1100 because of the macro-economic fight of Big Beer vs. Big Liquor, but Big Beer stands to gain either way.

If 1100 passes, Bud and the big guys stand to gain because it guts 39 laws which currently prevent them from using their monopoly position to abuse the market and push out small producers like our local microbrewers. There is only so much shelf-space or taps to go around and current laws prevent large brewers and wineries from simply paying stores to monopolize the entire aisle. This would go bye-bye, along with the space that small breweries need in order to grow and prosper. This is why local brewers are against it and yet can still credibly make the claim that though the BI supports the No campaign, and they are glad for the financing, those same Big Brewers will move in if 1100 passes and push out the small guys. Bud wins either way!

It's not just that if 1100 passes Bud could now use its multi-million dollar advertising budget to directly buy up space in stores and bars that would otherwise be taken by craft brewers, it's also that many liquor distributors also distribute large national wine and beer brands. So bars will get a friendly call from their fancy new billion dollar nationwide monopoly distributors (I'm looking at you Odom Corp (aka Southern Wine and Spirits): "Hey, we see you're selling a lot of Jack Daniels. That's great, and thanks for the business. But you see, as your sole licensed regional distributor, we'd love it if you put a tap of our Bud/Mil/Coors where that local tap was. Oh, and your house wine will now be Gallo. That is, unless you'd prefer to no longer sell Jack."


And the "oh but someone else will sell them Jack" argument is bullshit. Thanks to the unique place give to alcohol by the 21st Amendment, it is very, very hard to press an anti-trust suit against a liquor distributor. So they divvy the brands up and you get one supplier who you are absolutely beholden to. Enjoy the strings attached.

NO on both!
Posted by Foghorn Leghorn on October 22, 2010 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Fuck this buzz-word addled political tom foolery! Vote NO on both. They are pro-corporate bills that won't help the state, and will only make it marginally easier to buy your booze.

We need reform, sure, but we need reform that works, not reform that drives local businesses out of money, and funnels corporate profits out of state. No on I-1100. Demand a solution that works.
Posted by Hypocrates on October 22, 2010 at 3:28 PM · Report this
I-1100 was drafted by a Republican blogger, Stefan Sharkansky -- whose website lovingly promotes I-1100 along with Tim Eyman, Dino Rossi, etc. It's promoted by Wal-Mart among other unsavory forces, and yet Ashley has the temerity to say those earning a living wage in liquor stores provide "lousy customer service" and that even the stores are "ugly" (hmm, unlike the beautiful Wal-Mart arising from mud & deforestation in Tumwater in my district -- a real architectural marvel!). He decries "choice" when under I-1100, which is more about deregulating than privatizing, big box stores will -- as the craft brewers, distilleries, and WA Wine Institute opposing I-1100 have noted -- squeeze products made by the little guys off the shelves. Goodbye Washington jobs -- more money for one Arkansas family!

Ashley dismisses the hit to the state budget as inconsequential -- when even a pending $1 million cut for those with autism spectrum disorders “means 36 clients and their families will not get the training and behavioral support they need to potentially reduce difficult behaviors enabling the family to keep their child in the family home.”

I'll bet the additional millions lost by I-1100 would seem pretty damn consequential to those kids, or to, say, the kids with disabilities already losing $1.4 million to transition from high school into the workplace. Of those kids, the state admits, “Clients and families that have become dependent upon five to seven hour a day school programs will have nothing to replace it with.” Well, except for more accessible booze, I guess, if I-1100 passes.

Meanwhile local governments -- including all of those in my district (Lacey, Olympia, Tumwater & Thurston County) -- are opposed because the revenue loss of I-1100 will rain fire upon public safety jobs. But what the heck, right Ashley? Let's just kick over more wheelchairs and fire firefighters and social workers so we can have booze at Wal-Mart!
Posted by Brendan Williams on October 22, 2010 at 4:11 PM · Report this
TheRain 12
I have nothing to add beyond saying that I think it would be an awesome pick-up line to say that you work for The Beer Institute.
Posted by TheRain on October 23, 2010 at 10:51 AM · Report this
Pamela S. 13
These measures are way too extreme. If you favor privatization this just not the way to do it. Both measures result in millions of lost revenue to state and local law enforcement, health, education and prevention programs. Both would make hard liquor more available at more locations. Law enforcement could not possibly get better with the loss of funds and more outlets to police.

It's not helpful to conclude something by comparing "control" states and "license" states in two big lumps. Some license states have much tighter control over alcohol than control states. For example, Minnesota and Kansas only allow 3.2% beer to be sold in a grocery store. All other alcohol has to be sold in liquor stores which are privately operated.

Hard liquor is a more powerful and potentially dangerous product which is why most states control it more carefully--even license states. While people certainly drive drunk, get addicted, and acquire health problems with beer and wine...things would likely be worse if hard liquor was the drink of choice. Greater availability of hard liquor will be attractive to youth who drink primarily to get drunk. Its easier and faster to get buzzed on hard liquor.

To some degree the choice is whether to be careful or careless with alcohol. I'd vote for careful and vote no on both these measures.
Posted by Pamela S. on October 23, 2010 at 11:37 AM · Report this
Fnarf @3: Stores currently licensed to sell beer and wine will be able to upgrade their licenses to sell spirits upon payment of the fee, provided that they're in good standing with the liquor board. New stores will be able get licensed too. They'll go through the same license application process that any new applicant for a beer/wine grocery store goes through today. That includes criminal background check, community input period and other review.

Citizen R@8: The initiative was NOT written by a single industry. Brendan Williams is essentially correct about the authorship. I was the primary, though not the sole author. Whatever you might think of my views on unrelated issues, the liquor issue has less to do with partisan politics than any other issue that I've seen. Most of the businesses which are most actively supporting I-1100 are owned and/or led by liberal Democrats. Costco's executives donate generously and almost exclusively to Democratic candidates and liberal causes. Same can be said about most of the people in the restaurant and nightlife businesses who are behind this. The NO campaign might have been started by UFCW, but its biggest funders are the mostly Republican beer companies and a few religious conservatives who seem nostalgic for Prohibition.

The drafters wrote it entirely from our own pro-consumer perspective and without any industry behind us when we started. The initiative was designed to provide a fair marketplace to benefit consumers and the businesses that do the best job of serving us. My pro-consumer philosophy, in a nutshell: Consumers deserve to be sovereign in the marketplace and to have freedom to choose where they shop and who they buy from. Businesses should have to compete to win our business. The government's role in the consumer marketplace should be limited to enforcing product safety laws, other laws that protect people from physical harm and regulations to prevent predatory pricing and monopolies. Other than that it's not in the public's interest for government to subsidize one business at the expense of others, or to "protect" some businesses by outlawing fair competition or mutually beneficial business deals that are freely entered into.

I-1100 would create a fair marketplace based on those principles.

The businesses that support it are mostly retailers (from the very small to the very large), bars and restaurants, and a lot of small wineries. These businesses believe that the free and fair consumer-driven marketplace will allow them be more successful.

The businesses that hate I-1100 most and are spending millions to defeat it are the big multinational breweries (e.g. Anheuser-Busch/Inbev, now based in Belgium) and beer distributors from around the country. Breweries and beer distributors benefit now by having the state liquor stores keeping many alcoholic beverages out of grocery stores, and thereby protecting beer from competition for shelf space and customer choice. Also, the beer and wine industries are regulated with antiquated laws, which have nothing to do with public safety and don't exist for any other consumer product. Some of these businesses feel these "protect" them from competition with their rivals. But the main effect is to reduce consumer choice and raise consumer prices.

Brendan @11: I-1100 maintains the $220+ million annual revenue from the statutory liquor sales tax. The revenue that would be discontinued is the liquor store "markup" which is in essence an extra sales tax imposed by the liquor board instead of the Legislature. The extra sales tax brings in less than $60 million in a normal year. Much of that will be made up anyway by B&O taxes. I think that it's the Legislature's job to set taxes. If we want the sales tax which is today imposed by the liquor board to continue, then it deserves to continue as a transparent and properly legislated liquor sales tax. I have no doubt that someone in the next session of the Legislature will introduce such a bill to increase the liquor sales tax so that the total effective tax on liquor is maintained, and you can encourage the members to support it.

But the issue of taxation is completely separate from the question whether or not it's a core function of government to sell Kahlua and Triple Sec
Posted by Sharkansky on October 23, 2010 at 3:54 PM · Report this

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