Evan Smith: Initiatives could mean 49 local places to buy booze

Friday, October 29, 2010

By Evan Smith
ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer 

The number of places selling hard liquor in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park could increase from three to 49 if Initiative 1100, 1105 or both pass in next week’s election.

A recent report from the Association of Washington Cities, which says it hasn’t taken a position on the initiatives, showed that Shoreline currently has three liquor stores, and Lake Forest Park has none. If either or both statewide initiatives were to pass, Association figures show 43 places in Shoreline and six in Lake Forest Park that now have licenses to sell beer and wine and would be able to sell hard liquor under either measure.

Both initiatives allow private retailers to sell liquor, but differ on who is allowed to distribute liquor. Currently, the state distributes liquor to the liquor stores.

I-1100 would allow retailers to negotiate and buy liquor directly from the manufacturers. I-1105 would require retailers to buy liquor from a third-party distributor; the distributors would sell to all retailers at the same price.

According to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission, the Initiative 1100 campaign’s primary sponsor is Costco, and I-1105’s money comes from Odom Southern Holdings and Young’s Market Company, two beverage distribution companies.

Large retailers likely would benefit by negotiating discounts directly with the makers of liquor. Smaller retailers (and distributors), on the other hand, likely would benefit from a distribution system that sells to small and large retailers at the same price.

Initiative 1105 keeps some control into the pricing rules but allows for discounts on large volume purchases. On taxes, it tells the Legislature to figure out a system before any licenses to sell hard liquor are issued.

Disposing of the mark-up is one reason why supporters feel consumers will pay less for their booze.

Opponents say that both initiatives free retailers and distributors to mark up their charge to the point where there may be no tangible difference from the situation today.

Opponents believe the public will be less safe with hard liquor so readily available in communities. Added convenience will increase alcohol-fueled troubles including accidents, alcoholism and violence, they argue.

Proponents say that once the market opens, more alcohol might be sold and the taxes would make up some of those predicted revenue losses from the state's mark-up.

Finally, foes contend hard liquor will wind up in the hands of teenagers more often because, they claim, private store clerks are less vigilant in ensuring the age of buyers.

Here are Association of Washington Cities figures for retail sales sites in Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and nearby municipalities:



                        City            Current Liquor Stores     # of Eligible Retailers

Shoreline.........................3..........................46
Lake Forest Park...........0............................6
Bothell..............................2.........................42
Brier..................................0...........................1
Edmonds...........................1.........................30
Kenmore...........................1.........................10
Lynnwood.........................2.........................68
Mill Creek.........................1.........................14
Mountlake Terrace............1.........................17
Seattle..............................22................. ....552
Woodway...........................0..........................0


*These numbers exclude places licensed for drinking of alcohol on premises such as bars and restaurants. The AWC developed these projected numbers from ZIP codes of licensed locations as of July and does not account for sites in unincorporated areas.

4 comments:

Anonymous,  October 29, 2010 at 6:14 PM  

Would Shoreline's business tax base increase if these initiatives passed?

Anonymous,  October 30, 2010 at 1:20 PM  

I agree that the State should not be involved in running a business. With that said, I will have to refer to an article I read in the Seattle Times. Why doesn't someone come up with an initiative to sell off the store's that sell hard liquor? Why just shut them down and allow the big retail store's to benefit. Sell off the warehouse and all the liquor stores to the highest bidder (or bidder's). This is one business that is currently making money. Make them buy an annual license and keep hard liquor out of the easy to reach retail stores. Why give this away? Someone referred to this as the Costco initiative. It's just plain stupid to give this type of business away.

Evan Smith,  October 30, 2010 at 3:47 PM  

The first anonymous commenter asked about tax money for the City The City actually would lose money because it gets a share of the State's liquor profits. The City would get some tax money, but that would be far less than its current share of profits
I actually had planned to write about how the initiatives would affect tax revenue but I got sick.
Some people say that this is the wrong time for state and local government to give up this source of revenue.

Anonymous,  October 30, 2010 at 5:20 PM  

Evan, I hope you feel better. Sorry to hear you got sick. I really enjoy your articles here.

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