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Alcohol distributors spend against Costco liquor-privatization initiative

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Aug. 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm with 3 Comments »
August 22, 2011 5:21 pm

The group fighting Costco’s liquor-privatization initiative looks like it has found a benefactor.

The Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America contributed more than $3.6 million this month to the political committee opposing Initiative 1183.

The D.C.-based trade group for distributors released this statement:

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America opposes I-1183 because that measure is designed to disable an effective regulatory structure that balances consumer demand with appropriate control over the distribution of alcohol and the licensed players in the Washington state market. A similarly ill-considered deregulatory initiative backed by Costco was rejected just last year, but they have chosen to ignore the message delivered by the citizens of that state and their elected representatives who drafted legislation to allow for limited privatization while maintaining strong regulatory control.

Alcohol distributors were also the main checkbook fighting last year’s Costco-backed initiative, but most of the money came from the beer industry — which also opposes this one, but hasn’t spent money against it.

Authors of this year’s initiative say it was carefully drawn to avoid affecting beer. But it does allow wineries to bypass distributors and sell directly to restaurants or retailers like Costco, a provision that has drawn support from a group of local wineries but opposition from the distributors.

Here’s what the supporters say about those provisions:

Initiative 1183 does not affect the sale or distribution of beer. There are provisions in I-1183 that will update certain laws dealing with wine distribution. I-1183 will allow wine distributors and wineries to offer volume discounts and to sell directly to retail stores and restaurants if they choose. These changes will benefit many small Washington wineries, increase competition and help reduce the prices consumers pay for wine.

What’s more, the initiative also allows those same manufacturer-to-retailer sales when it comes to hard liquor — so distributors wouldn’t have an automatic place in Washington’s brand new private market for liquor.

Unions have provided most of the rest of the funding for the anti-1183 group, including $215,000 so far from the United Food and Commercial Workers, whose members work at the state-run liquor stores.

On the supporters’ side, Costco has provided most of the $2.4 million raised.

Leave a comment Comments → 3
  1. Steven Dudley says:

    I believe that if you show the public how much more the cost of spirits is to the general public in Oregon and Washington because of the big cut the boys in the middle (Distributors) get, they will understand how they are being played by the politicos and greedy middle-men who are makng a handsome profit off of their fear mongering, self-serving, self-interested political skullduggery!!
    They tried pulling the same CRUD in several other states a long time ago, and the people got wise to the lies they were perpetrating !!
    I have lived in several other states in my life and I am amazed at how the folk up here have been duped by these special interest groups.
    And yes, I am a born in the Northwest home-boy !
    The truth shall set them free if they are willing to listen.

  2. illbarry says:

    Recently I just got back from a trip to the Midwest where I drove 4400 miles round trip. Almost all states there have allways sold Liquor in grocery stores. The pricing was just the same as in Washington and many times higher (I was not drinking and driving I just like americana) and it is a falicy to beleive that privatizing hear would be any different. In Washington it is a major scorce of revenue for the state and selling that off would be very short sighted in the long run. It also provides many jobs that also help the economy in many ways. These are not cadilac jobs by any means, but jobs none the less that provide for families in many sectors for people who already live in this state. If you take away a job from one individual who lives hear to provide a job for someone who located hear specifically to take that job, what have you accomplished?

  3. Flanagan says:

    illbarry…I don’t care what booze costs,…it makes no sense to sell beer and wine in the grocery store and not the other alcohol products. I for one can see no good reason to rent space, hire special people and pay for their health insurance and pensions when any checker in a grocery store can sell the stuff along with pork and beans and a bag of dog food.
    Heck, unlike Oregon, those of us in Washington are even smart enough to pump our own gas. Enough already, get rid of state liquor stores.

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