Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Case for Firing Washington's Ineffectual Liquor Control Board

Posted by on Thu, May 31, 2012 at 11:57 AM

More than anything, yesterday's vote by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, rejecting Seattle's request to consider allowing cities to serve alcohol past 2:00 a.m., once again underscored the board's commitment to keep booze out of the hands of the public instead of doing their jobs and crafting progressive legislation to ensure our residents are able to drink safely and responsibly.

"We are the Liquor Control Board," decried board member Sharon Foster in a statement echoed by fellow board member Ruthann Kurose. "Our paramount responsibility is public safety, and I believe control plays a major part of public safety."

Fellow board member Chris Marr, who was only appointed to the board in February 2011, cast the lone yes vote.

"This is a huge slap in the face for Seattle," says nightlife advocate and bar owner Dave Meinert. "It's also an old-school way of dealing with issues and making policy. Foster and Kurose have an old-school mentality on how to regulate liquor."

"I question whether we should even have a liquor board," Meinert added.

He's right. After all, we're talking about three people arbitrarily endowed by the governor (and confirmed by the legislature) with the authority to set liquor policies for the entire state. And it's a sweet deal. Washington State Liquor Control Board members receive $50,000-plus salaries for part-time work, no prior experience working in the nightlife industry* required. Which explains why it takes years and years and years of bitching to achieve any progressive policy change.

Consider this: Drinking onstage was illegal in Washington state until last October.

Beer and wine vendors were only granted temporary permission to dole out teaspoonfuls of their products at select farmer's markets last July (it's only a pilot project because too many teaspoonful-sized samples in public and lordy, people might go MAD!!!). And despite years of failed initiative attempts to privatize liquor sales, board members sat on their hands and refused to adjust the state's prohibition-era system until a new system was finally, flawfully forced on them by Costco and the voting public last November.

Foster and Kurose cited public safety concerns as their primary reason for vetoing the proposal. Yet in Seattle, the proposal received widespread support from the mayor, city council, police chief, city attorney, even the King County Executive as a way to curb the 135 percent spike in public disturbances that accompanies our 2:00 a.m. pushout. But instead of even considering a plan to pilot staggered bar hours—a solid compromise proposed by Marr—Foster and Kurose voted to kill the proposal, citing public safety concerns raised by a few small law enforcement agencies, teetotalers, and Vancouver and Spokane city officials. In other words, smaller jurisdictions that don't have the nightlife problems we face.

"This may be a decision requiring Seattle to engage the support of the State Legislature," Kurose said in a statement, willfully ignoring the fact that the state legislature hired her to make exactly those kinds of decisions. "Should the State determine that extending hours of alcohol service is appropriate in Washington, the Board will make it happen," she added.

In essence, we're paying three people good money to say "no," to progressive liquor laws at every available opportunity. It's no wonder that two of these three members think the same liquor laws that apply to, say, Lynden, Washington, population 12,000, can be applied with equal success to Seattle—a city with 608,00-plus residents and over 3,000 music-related businesses that support 8,700 jobs and generate $650 million annually to the economy.

"I'm disappointed the Liquor Control Board would not let Seattle make a formal application to extend liquor service hours in our city," said Mayor Mike McGinn in response to the board's decision. "Our request would not have extended hours anywhere in the state by one minute."

Saying no is always the easiest answer. But as only Marr seems to understand, the board shouldn't be paid to say no. They should be paid to say, "How can we safely make this happen? How?"

Or they should be fucking fired.

*Foster was once a lobbyist for the Restaurant Association, but calling that nightlife experience is like arguing that she's qualified to give me a pap smear because she also once lobbied for NARAL.


Comments (19) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Sargon Bighorn 1
Why fire them? What needs to happen is citizen involvement. Few care enough to get to the public hearings. Yeah that's the bottom line, apathy. Like when a school closure is discussed masses of screaming parents show up and PRESTO the schools all remain open. Try the same thing with the WLCB.
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on May 31, 2012 at 12:06 PM · Report this
wilbur@work 2
1 -- they've already said no, they're not interested in citizen involvement; they're only interested in citizen harassment.
Posted by wilbur@work on May 31, 2012 at 12:08 PM · Report this
I still don't understand how moving "push out" from 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. will solve any problem. People who get drunk and cause problems will only be drunker when pushed out at even later hours.

And the LCB was rightly concerned about drinkers being pushed out at 2:00 a.m. in less-enlightened towns driving into the city to continue drinking for another hour or two or three.

The real solution is to enforce the ban on overserving, and do it at all hours. If you exit the bar and can blow more than 0.08, you've been overserved!
Posted by Citizen R on May 31, 2012 at 12:14 PM · Report this
Just Jeff 4
Sorry, but as a bus driver who works overnight routes, I'd like to hand each and every one of the LCB members who voted against extending Seattle's bar hours a fucking medal.
Posted by Just Jeff on May 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM · Report this
Maybe the commercialization of our citizen initiative process isn't such a bad thing...can we get the spirits distributors to bankroll a statewide initiative to disband the liquor control board?
Posted by yourepretentious on May 31, 2012 at 12:20 PM · Report this
The WSLCB is an odd duck. We all know that alcohol is a dangerous intoxicating substance, but is totally legal for anyone over 21. The caveats are a) no driving after more than one or 2 drinks. b) no giving booze to kids. c) we'd prefer you did your blackout drinking at home. and d) bars have to close at 2am. The pro-pot people keep telling us it is super dangerous and use that as a reason to make 'safer' marijuana legal.

Every state has some mechanism for control of alcohol as a special substance. Lets not forget that there are still many dry counties, and many more places where bars shut at midnight or 1 am. In most towns in the UK pubs shut at 11pm, and that seems to work fine for one would suggest that there isn't enough drinking happening over there.
Posted by Chris Jury on May 31, 2012 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Dominic hinted in a recent Morning News that MayorMikeMcGinn maaaaaaaybe let slide the work of swaying other jurisdictions to let the WSLCB know they supported the idea. Any insight on this? If he'll propose a rule change but not put in effort to shepherd support for it, instead using it as fodder to build resentment of the state among his base, well, that would be awfully Kucinichy.

"It would allow cities to seek the right to serve liquor past 2:00 a.m., but it's still unclear that Mayor Mike McGinn, who requested the rule change, ever did his homework by working with county police and nearby cities to win their support. With their opposition, the proposal could be scotched."…
Posted by gloomy gus on May 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM · Report this
bleedingheartlibertarian 8
79 fucking years, and we are still unwinding the legacy of Prohibition.
Posted by bleedingheartlibertarian on May 31, 2012 at 12:43 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 9

The reason for extending the hours is not because we think there "isn't enough drinking."

It's because closing all the bars at 2 am is counter productive. It creates more alcohol impact, not less.

There's also the fact that we don't need a whole layer of State bureaucracy to regulate alcohol. We have a police force; every other town has one too. And a county sheriff on top of that. There are enough cops around to do the job.

The WSLCB is just bloated bureaucracy and excessive centralization of power. Based on the assumption that city mayors and councils are too stupid to decide their own alcohol policy, so we need these three boar members who are so much smarter to tell us what to do.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn on May 31, 2012 at 12:44 PM · Report this
pfffter 10
Just because the WSLCB doesn't effect the change you want doesn't mean they're ineffectual.
Posted by pfffter on May 31, 2012 at 12:45 PM · Report this
@9- as I said, every state has a special mechanism for controlling alcohol sales. They generally set the outside boundary for alcohol sales, and are happy to allow municipalities, tribes, counties to further restrict as they see fit. If the 2 am push-out is so dangerous, then lets have a few bars close at midnight and a few more close at 1am. That solves the 'problem' and we don't need any special permission to do that.

Oh, wait, that doesn't help sell more alcohol, which is absolutely the motivation behind this.
Posted by Chris Jury on May 31, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Report this
@6 The U.K. is in no way evidence that having pubs close early helps reduce problem drinking.
U.K.'s binge drinking rate is second only to Ireland.…
They've fiddled with the hours over the past decade and saw little change. When they allowed 24-licenses there was slightly less closing-time violence and slightly more late-night violence.

It could be that most of the alcohol consumed during binges doesn't come from pubs/bars, but rather markets & liquor stores as people pre-funk or top-up with cheap stuff. Binge drinking at bars is expensive.
Posted by dirge on May 31, 2012 at 1:29 PM · Report this
"...we're talking about three people arbitrarily endowed by the governor..."

Jesus, Cienna. You sound like Tim Eyman. That's the same argument he used when claiming the Transportation Commission couldn't set ferry fares.
Posted by TJ on May 31, 2012 at 1:30 PM · Report this
Geni 14
The A#1 reason I want the WSLCB disbanded? They're the fucking Purity Police. Why don't we allow drinking in titty bars in this state? WSLCB. Why was the Eagle penalized for showing a clip that included very brief full-frontal nudity? WSLCB. They are used as a brute-force instrument against any kind of private club that wants to permit its members to enjoy a glass of wine; if the WSLCB suspects that one person might someday show a tit, they can close the club down if there is one fucking drop of alcohol present. I could care less about most of their other functions, but they're being used to enforce laws against nudity and/or sex in PRIVATE venues, all of which have to be stricter than Baptist Sunday Schools about alcohol on the premises, because of the WSLCB. Why are we allowing this absurdly Puritanical extrajudicial bunch of bluenoses to tell adults they cannot participate in two LEGAL activities in PRIVATE at the same time?
Posted by Geni on May 31, 2012 at 1:36 PM · Report this
@12- that wasn't my point. My point was that those folks (I used to be one of them) get plenty of drinking done by the 11am cutoff -which is what I meant by "it works fine for them" Not implying they don't have issues w/ binge drinking or violence...just that everyone is done doing so early enough to get up for work in the morning.

So I repeat- lets give this staggered closing a shot. Dave Meinert's bar can close at 11pm. I expect he will be totally cool with that, since it is such a great idea. and totally not about selling booze for an extra hour.

Also- @14- why are you trying to take strip clubs away from the 18-20 year olds? What kind of puritanical nutjob are you?
Posted by Chris Jury on May 31, 2012 at 2:21 PM · Report this
@6, Chris Jury wrote, "We all know that alcohol is a dangerous intoxicating substance, but is totally legal for anyone over 21." Those ideas are not contrary. Alcohol is a dangerous, intoxicating drug and there is no prohibition of it for people 21 years of age and older.

"bars have to close at 2am" No, they don't. They're prohibited from selling alcohol between 2:00 a.m. and sometime approximately four hours later.

What's the reasoning behind barring the sales of alcohol at certain hours, anyway?
Posted by Phil M on May 31, 2012 at 2:48 PM · Report this
Staggering hours is a bad idea... Drunk people driving from spot to spot to get up on the liquor hours, not good. I'm not against it, but I think it needs to be State-wide, because the issue of people driving drunk from other areas with earlier close times is a real threat. I'd say why have a closing time at all? Leave it up to the bar, serve all night, who gives a fuck? IMO, it is your body to destroy as you wish. And I will destroy mine as I wish.
Posted by scratchmaster joe on May 31, 2012 at 4:17 PM · Report this
@16 -kind of splitting hairs there, aren't you?
Posted by Chris Jury on May 31, 2012 at 6:23 PM · Report this
The Liquor Control Board made a sound decision to protect public health and safety. Their decision to not extend alcohol hours is in line with National Health Reform and prevention recommendations. Vancouver B.C. has tried extending alcohol hours and has seen huge increases in crime and expenses for polices. King 5 News conducted a poll of over 3,000 people and 62% said they were not in favor of extended alcohol hours, so the Liquor Control Board is also in line with the majority of Washington residents who don't want to pick up the tab for the public safety bills, and the Emergency Room expenses that will increase because of excessive late night drinking. If nightclubs want to stay open later they already can, and should, to let people sober up before they go home.
Posted by Mike G-S on June 5, 2012 at 10:29 PM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy