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Privatization of Washington Liquor Stores

Pete Springer/OPB

Beginning Friday, Washington shoppers will be able to buy liquor in grocery stores as Initiative 1183 takes effect. The initiative, passed last fall, puts an end to a 78-year-old system of state-operated liquor stores. Now private stores larger than 10,000 square feet can sell alcohol. Smaller stores will also be allowed based on local demand.

Spirit prices may increase as the initiative takes effect. The new regulation imposes a 27 percent fee on all spirits to reimburse the state, which will lose more than $400 million of revenue every year.

Also, some Washington State Liquor Board employees face unemployment. Others, who continue to work at the private stores, may lose union benefits. 

Some big companies, like COSTCO, a wholesale corporation that will benefit the most from the new system, have supported this change from the beginning.

How will this affect you? If you’re in Washington, will this change your alcohol consumpiton? Do you think you’ll buy more, or less?

Do you think it’s time for Oregon to make similar changes?


  • Jessica Robinson: Contributing reporter for OPB News
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