Costco-backed liquor privatization initiative defeated

November 4, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 8 a.m. Nov. 4, 2010

Costco Wholesale has battled for years to loosen state liquor regulations — and voters have rejected the latest effort by the Issaquah-based company to change Washington’s state-run liquor system.

Initiative 1100, a liquor privatization measure on the Nov. 2 ballot, trailed statewide by about 80,000 votes of about 1.6 million cast statewide late Wednesday. In King County, the measure had a slight lead late Wednesday, by about 2,500 votes out of 418,000 cast.

The measure aimed to close state-run liquor outlets and roll back Prohibition-era policies to allow hard liquor to be sold in grocery stores, gas stations and elsewhere. In Issaquah, the measure could have allowed liquor sales at up to 22 businesses.

Voters also defeated the other liquor privatization measure on the ballot, Initiative 1105.

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14 Responses to “Costco-backed liquor privatization initiative defeated”

  1. Paul on November 4th, 2010 8:33 am

    The people of this state have just allowed the government to continue in a legal monopoly. Any true American understands that the government should not be in the retail business. Even worse, they don’t allow any competition to enter the market. Think you have a choice of product? Wrong… You only have choices the government has seen fit to allow. Doesn’t seem like a free market system does it. If you really think it was a good choice to allow this to continue just take a look at the many states that allow private sales. There you have more choice, lower taxes, cheaper prices, and their states haven’t turned to utter chaos with drunken kids roaming the streets as was suggested would happen. Enforcement of the laws is what keeps liquor abuse under control. This was a sad election day for us all.

  2. Theresa on November 4th, 2010 10:09 am

    Washington State Voters educated themselves on the issue. The three-tier system provides protections for consumers and citizens. Costco spent money to produce a product that suited their business model, not what was best for the citizens and communities of Washington. They wanted the money plain and simple. They didn’t spend that kind of money to be “good citizens”. Consumer and small businesses are protected in some of the three tier laws and that is why money was put in to the no campaign by a lot of different sources from small business, first responders and churches. The reality is that most citizens, churches and small businesses do not have the money to “buy” legislation as Costco did, or tremendous amounts to throw at issues. Small business won! Thank you voters of Washington. You saved my small business that pays taxes and employees people and did not sell out to the huge corporate purchased legislation.

  3. KD on November 4th, 2010 10:41 am

    I completely side with Paul on this. It’s disappointing the voters didn’t remove the state government out of the liquor business. We’re left with limited choice and high prices as a result.

  4. Brian on November 4th, 2010 10:49 am

    In response to Theresa who stated “The reality is that most citizens, churches and small businesses do not have the money to “buy” legislation as Costco did, or tremendous amounts to throw at issues. Small business won!” By “small business do you mean Anheuser Busch or Miller Brewing? Combined they spend over $9 million dollars to defeat this measure. Was that done to protect the people and small businesses of Washington state? No. It was done because they want to protect their monopoly on market share in grocery stores and other retail outlets without competition from hard liquor. Anyone who “educated” themselves on this issue should have known that.

  5. Kris on November 4th, 2010 11:48 am

    For those disappointed about the NO on 1100, consider the money us citizens of Washington States stood to lose: the whole apparatus of shops, distribution, licenses and everything else included in the state liquor business is worth about $1billion. That is ours, the citizens. Should we have just handed that over to Costco free and clear? It was a swindle, and we are lucky we didn’t lose it under the measures of 1100. Privatization should and will come down the road, but let’s keep our heads about us; when a single for-profit entity is pushing as hard for something as Costco was, it probably is not in the Citizens’ best interest.

  6. mark the c store owner on November 4th, 2010 12:26 pm

    IS the counting over yet?

  7. Uze DaFarce on November 4th, 2010 12:29 pm

    Well said Brian!

    The only reason it failed was that stores like Costco, Safeway, Wal Mart, etc., couldn’t afford to sink nearly enough money into the campaign during a depression like big beer could. I only saw 1 yes to I-1100 ad, and that was in the middle of the night, as opposed to the 100s of times the no ads ran, often during prime time. The no ads were blatantly filled with misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies; they could do this without fear since they new the competition couldn’t afford to get the real truth out to the people.

    During a recent trip to Texas, my 83 year old father-in-law was carded at a convenience store in New Mexico; their state law requires that anyone purchasing alcohol is carded, and it’s very seriously enforced. If anything is being sold to minors, it’s because the state is not doing its job of enforcing the laws, because they are too busy doing things they have no business doing, like selling liquor. If they would spend a 100th of their resources cracking down on selling alcohol to minors, businesses would be fined more, the people who sold would be fired, and it would never happen. It is true that they would still be able to have adults buy it for them, which happens in most cases already, and more enforcement could help to stem that problem as well, saying “no” to I-1100 is basically saying “no” to more and better enforcement. It’s easier for kids to buy illegal drugs than it is alcohol, regardless of what state they live in, albeit drugs are more expensive, and they get higher penalties if caught in possession.

    In addition to the highest markup in the country (65%), our state also has the highest liquor taxes in the country. Once the general populace hears the truth, I-1100 will pass handily. It’s unfortunate it didn’t happen this year, but it will certainly happen next.

  8. sickOfWaMafia on November 4th, 2010 12:58 pm

    This “controversy” is pointless. Only a creative writing workshop could come up with ANY opposition to this proposition. I used to buy liquor at the Washington Mafia stores…until I found out that the employees are getting A STATE PENSION! Just like our schoolteachers. And for what, schlepping booze around with a handtruck? Here’s the facts, there are just as many alcohol abusers here as in California, where booze is way cheaper and easier to get. The only people affected, when this law eventually passes, will be those Wa Mafia shop owners, who have managed to secure a precious state liquor license…a license to rob us at the counter. Your days are numbered, Mafia. Until then, I’m going to Portland to get my scotch. There’s a better selection there resulting from free enterprise, not some misguided holdover policy from ancient times.

  9. Brian on November 4th, 2010 1:14 pm


    Well the state would have made more money on taxing and getting licenses for stores to sell. in turn those jobs would have provided jobs, maybe not as well paying as the state run ones.

    State needs monitor not sell liquor.

  10. Washington: Costco-backed liquor privatization initiative defeated | BoozeNews on November 4th, 2010 3:12 pm

    […] {Full story} […]

  11. Phil on November 4th, 2010 3:46 pm

    Warren, maybe you need to read your other article (“King County voter turnout exceeds pre-election estimates”) before you declare this initiative to be defeated. According to that one, KC expects another 130,000 ballots just Thursday and Friday, which could wipe out the 80,000 vote gap.

  12. Tom on November 4th, 2010 8:22 pm

    I voted against both 1100 and 1105 because I believe doing so was in my interest. I do not find the prices charged in this state for beer, wine, or hard liquor to be too much to bear. The selection has always proven to be perfectly adequate. I also do not want prices lowered and availability increased for the simple reason that we have enough problems with drinking drivers. I believe that making booze cheaper and more widely available will add to the problems substantially. I do not believe that the people who supported 1100 or 1105 would be willing to pay for the sort of enforcement of our liquor laws which would be effective in limiting access to those who can legally purchase liquor.

    I also consider myself to be a “true American”.

  13. RavenRaving on November 4th, 2010 11:31 pm

    ‘SickofWaMafia’ is outraged that Wa. employees working in state run liquor stores get state pensions if they put in the years. Instead of being outraged, how about voting to roll back the calendar to when EVERYBODY got pensions if they put in the years at their jobs? Remember when the USA took care of it’s citizens, there was a social safety net, and you get health care benefits when you worked a full-time job? Why not work to get back to those times instead of insisting that some employees belong in the bottom of the barrel?

  14. Washington Voters Miss the Point: Markets are Fair and Orderly : WinePolicy.Com on November 5th, 2010 9:40 am

    […] State voters rejected an initiative that would have re-organized this industry simply to make it more rational, […]

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