Liquor sales are up — and so are the prices

By | December 4, 2012 | 0 Comments

Liquor sales are up nearly 3 percent since the state got out of the liquor business in June. Prices are also up — a standard liter of liquor now costs an average of $2 more per bottle than last year.

About 13.6 million liters of liquor were sold from June through September this year, compared to 13.2 million during the same period a year ago, when state liquor stores were still in business.

Consumers purchased about 8 percent more spirits when compared to last year, according to figures released today by the state Department of Revenue.

Bars and restaurants, meanwhile, are buying less — there was a 13 percent drop in liquor purchases from businesses from June to September. The revenue department speculates that’s because businesses stockpiled in May, before the privatization law went into effect.

A year ago, the average retail price for a liter of liquor, including taxes, was $21.58. The same bottle now costs an average of $24.09 — a nearly 12 percent increase.

This week’s Q&A: The arguments against Initiative 1183

By | July 22, 2011 | 0 Comments
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Last week for the Q&A, I talked to Bruce Becket of the Washington Restaurant Association about why his group supports Initiative 1183. This week, I talked with Jim Cooper, president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.

Q: First, what does Initiative 1183 do from your perspective?

Cooper: Well, the first piece, the main piece for us is that the initiative increases the number of liquor outlets fivefold — from 328 to nearly 1,500. We know through a lot of research and evidence that when you increase liquor outlet density, crime and violence go up as well. The American Medical Association has a web site called Alcohol Policy, MD which compiles all the different resources and the CDC, for that very same reason (of increased crime), has recommended against any further privatization in any states that have a control system.

The current system is keeping communities safe and it would be irresponsible to add more liquor outlets.

The other side of it is, what part of No does Costco not understand? Voters said no in two different initiatives last year that went down overwhelmingly in almost every single county in the state. And Gov. Chris Gregoire commissioned an Elway Poll on the liquor system and found that most people like the current system and feel they have ample access to liquor. We’re kind of like, why do we need to do anything different? There’s not a grassroots groundswell, this is really just a big box corporate initiative.

Q: Do you think privatizing liquor sales would increase consumption and abuse?

Cooper: There will absolutely be an increase in consumption related to the volume of liquor stores. Anytime you increase consumption, you’re going to have some increase in abuse.

In our state, I don’t remember the exact number but we have a significantly lower rate of crime and violence per capita than California.

Q: So are you saying it will increase the crime rate in Washington?

Cooper: I know it will.

Q: Part of the pushback of this initiative will undoubtedly be from state employees. Can you say more on that point?

Cooper: Sure. Over a thousand living wage jobs would be lost if this passes. You know, and then you’re talking about what that means to communities and I don’t really have a lot more to say to that but there are the labor unions involved, faith-based organizations, firefighters, law enforcement and many others.

Q: Bruce Becket suggested in last week’s Q&A that those who lose their jobs at state liquor stores could work at the private-run stores.

Cooper: You know, I don’t want to pretend to know how that will happen, but I don’t see Costco or Safeway increasing their number of employees by very many on the floor. Costco doesn’t even have people on the floor. (more…)

Q&A with Bruce Beckett: Proponent of privatizing liquor sales via Initiative 1183

By | July 15, 2011 | 0 Comments
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

This week’s Q&A is with Bruce Beckett, Government Affairs Director of the Washington Restaurant Association and a spokesman for the Yes on Initiative 1183 campaign. I wanted to talk to him about this year’s effort to privatize liquor sales in the state. I’ll be following up next week with someone against the initiative. Here’s what Beckett had to say.”

Q: First, what does this initiative do?

Beckett: Well, it simply removes state government from its role as the sole retailer of liquor in the state and allows private retailers, distributors or even manufacturers to enter into the market. It does so by allowing a limited number of qualified retail stores to sell liquor. They have to be 10,000 square feet or larger, and it also will increase revenues to state and local government over and beyond what they’re currently receiving from the liquor distribution center in Washington. And it strengthens regulations on the liquor sales to minors in particular.

Q: You were involved in an initiative last year to privatize liquor. What are the main differences this time around?

Beckett: Last year, the voters responded quite strongly to the campaign that was put out in opposition. (The opposition) focused on public safety and on revenues to state and local government. There were some legitimate issues raised by stakeholders. This initiative responds to those concerns in a number of ways.

(Initiative 1183) will increase revenue to state and local government by the imposition of license fees on retailers and distributors. The fee is 17 percent for retailers on gross sales, 10 percent for distributors or wholesalers. (The 10 percent rate) does decline to 5 percent once there’s the replenishment of the revenue the state would lose. So on the revenue side, that’s how that’s been addressed.

On the public safety side, there’s a number of things. First, it limits retail outlets to 10,000 square feet or more. That’s a pretty good-sized grocery store. That’s to eliminate the concern over liquor being in convenience stores or gas station mini-marts. Second, it increases education and training requirements for those employees that will be handling liquor in those stores. Third, it doubles the penalty for selling to a minor — doubles it over what would occur on beer and wine sales.

The revenue increase, which is being evaluated right now, is projected to be over $200 million more in the first biennium and then 10s of millions of dollars thereafter. Ten million of the increase is dedicate to public safety. (more…)

Contract liquor stores: Don’t sell our business to the highest bidder

By | January 12, 2010 | 0 Comments

A representative of contract liquor stores just got up to speak at the House General Government Appropriations Committee. She owns one of the 155 contract liquor stores that have been in the state “since Prohibition.”

“If a franchise model is implemented, our business will be sold to the highest bidder,” she said. “I guarantee you that we cannot compete with the Costcos and Rite-Aids of the world.” (I didn’t catch her name but will update the info later.)

“For a one-time budget fix for Washington state, it seems that the total impact of this has not been explored,” she said, referring to a plan to auction off liquor store contracts and privatize sales.

She also said she’s glad to hear the committee discuss the social cost — increased alcoholism — of privatizing liquor sales.

Auditor’s office: Privatizing liquor sales could be loss or gain, depending on the model

By | January 11, 2010 | 0 Comments

One of the hot topics in the days leading up to the legislative session was privatizing the state’s liquor sales. Currently, the state owns and operates all liquor stores in Washington.

But, there are many ways that could work. The state Auditor’s office analyzed them to see how much money would be saved. The results can be found on page 14 of the slide show here.

One way: Convert all state-owned stores to contract stores. But that would actually cost the state $47 million between 2012 and 2016 — and that’s on top of the $2.36 billion the current system would cost if it goes unchanged.

The most cost-effective option, according to the Auditor’s office, is to privatize the distribution center in Seattle, privatize stores and increase the number of stores in the state by about 60. That would generate an estimated $163 to $277 million between 2012-2016.

Of course, as Larisa Benson pointed out, they did not address the social cost of any of the plans. And: There are enforcement, labor and unemployment costs to factor in.

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