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Private vs. Public Liquor Sales

OPB | Sept. 15, 2010 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 9:37 p.m.

Washingtonians will consider two ballot measures this November which would privatize liquor sales in the state. Like Oregon, Washington’s state government controls liquor sales. Hard liquor is sold only in state-owned or state-contracted stores. The state regulates the price of spirits as well as the hours stores can be open and what other products they can carry. One of the proposed initiatives in Washington (I-1100 pdf) would privatize the sale, distribution and importing of hard liquor. The other (I-1105 pdf) would privatize retail sales but maintain state laws governing distributors. I-1100 is backed largely by Costco, a retailer which would directly benefit from privatization that would allow them to bypass distributors. Liquor distributors are backing I-1105.

If Washington voters pass either of the two ballot initiatives, Oregon will be the only state on the west coast with government-controlled liquor sales. (California was not one of the many states that got into liquor sales after prohibition.) Political junkies predict that Oregon could be the next state to privatize booze. It’s already been an issue in this year’s gubernatorial campaign. Candidates Chris Dudley and John Kitzhaber have expressed opposing views on privatization as part of their approach to the state budget. 

Do you own a liquor store? How would privatization affect you? Does it matter to you whether the state controls the price of your booze?

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