Costco-backed liquor initiative floats

November 9, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Costco Wholesale poured millions to a campaign to loosen state liquor regulations, only to come up dry on Election Day.

Issaquah-based Costco backed Initiative 1100, a liquor privatization measure. The initiative 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.

The initiative also aimed to allow volume discounts on alcohol and eliminate the state markup on hard liquor.

The electorate defeated I-1100 and the other liquor privatization measure on the ballot, Initiative 1105.

I-1100 trailed statewide — about 53 percent to 47 percent. I-1105 received only 35 percent of the vote.

Costco has not announced plans to follow up the failed initiative. Ashley Bach, a spokesman for the Yes on I-1100 campaign, said although the initiative failed, voters sent a message nonetheless.

“While I-1100 will not become law, a large percentage of voters have registered their dissatisfaction with how the state runs its liquor business,” he said in a statement released Nov. 8. “We’re confident this will send a strong message that liquor reform is something the public wants.”

Bach said the I-1100 campaign had not started to discuss future plans for privatization efforts.

The anti-privatization campaign, Protect Our Communities — a coalition of beer and wine distributors and public safety officials — said passage of either measure could lead to hard liquor at every grocery store and gas station, not to mention increased drunken driving and underage drinking.

“A large percentage of voters want the state out of the liquor business, and that’s encouraging,” Bach said. “While I-1100 is not going to pass, voters still made a strong statement that the current system doesn’t work.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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2 Responses to “Costco-backed liquor initiative floats”

  1. theresa on November 11th, 2010 11:39 am

    Ashley Baugh is wrong! What the voter’s said is we don’t want special interest large corporations writing our laws for us! Costco sullied it’s reputation by backing this bill. They were willing to sell out our communities for the corporate bottom line. Expanding liquor stores by 10 times the current level until 2 am in the morning. They had a chance to do this correctly, but greed got in their way. Shame on you Costco for lying to the electorate. You lied about the prices and the impact. You did nothing to reform the tax situation. You wanted to line your pockets at the taxpayers expense. Hooray for the taxpayer seeing through you purchased legislation!

  2. Stu Gatsi on November 17th, 2010 7:38 am

    All governments need to stop monpolizing business because it leads to inefficiency, higher costs to the consumer / taxpayer, and increased intrusion into the private lives of citizens.
    The flipside of the comment above is that the initiative lost because special interests that have the ear of the government (unions / large corporations with deeper pockets than Costco) put more money into opposing the measures than those who voted for them.
    Why doesn’t the liquor board be more transparent on the real costs involved in maintaining the stores and all its levels of staff? The real numbers, especailly the pension liabilities which are not counted in its budget, would be surprising.
    As for the loss of jobs had this passed, the folks in the stores would be doing the enforcing and the fees generated at state, county and local levels to keep these businesses operating would have been a huge boon for government revenue – and that’s where Costco and the supporters for I-1100/1105 got it wrong when they tried to sale the initiative to the public.
    The monopoly also stifles businees – many people would have opened new businesses and occupied a lot of the empty storefornts that I see around the state – creating more jobs in the long run and also increasing ohter business opportunities for the transport/distribution/affiliated businesses such as restaurants and the like.

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