Wash. Retailers: Privatize Liquor Distribution

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A group of state-based businesses, including Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash., filed a ballot initiative Monday that would privatize the distribution and sale of liquor in Washington and eliminate the current state liquor store system.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A group of state-based businesses, including Costco Wholesale Corp. [2], Issaquah, Wash., filed a ballot initiative Monday that would privatize the distribution and sale of liquor in Washington and eliminate the current state liquor store system.

To sell liquor under the proposal, stores would have to meet certain requirements, including operating in enclosed spaces of 10,000 square feet or more within a single structure. The initiative would also require a store to demonstrate it can effectively prevent sales of alcohol to minors; give local communities input before a liquor license can be issued; and ban liquor sales at gas stations and small convenience stores.

Retail stores that are approved for liquor licenses would pay 17% of their gross revenues from liquor sales to the state, while distributors would pay 10% of their gross to the state for the first two years and 5% thereafter, providing state and local governments with tens of millions more per year than the current state liquor store system, the initiative sponsors said.

Besides Costco, other sponsors include the Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Restaurant Association. Now that the initiative has been filed, it must go through a state process to establish an official ballot title, after which supporters will need to gather signatures to qualify it for the ballot in November.