Costco joins push to privatize liquor sales

May 24, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah-based Costco and a group of retailers and restaurants ordered another round May 20 in the push to privatize liquor sales and distribution in Washington.

The group filed a ballot initiative to allow a limited number of retail stores to sell liquor. If the initiative passes, eligible stores must have at least 10,000 square feet of fully enclosed retail space within a single structure or, in areas without larger stores, meet Washington State Liquor Control Board requirements.

In addition to Costco, the group includes the Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Restaurant Association.

“This initiative will modernize the wholesale distribution and retail sales of liquor in a way that increases consumer choice and convenience, and increases state and local revenues, while continuing to protect public safety and strictly regulate the distribution and sale of liquor,” Northwest Grocery Association President Joe Gilliam said in a release.

“Under the initiative, an estimated 1,500 grocery and retail stores would be eligible to apply for a license to sell liquor. The initiative would prohibit liquor from being sold at gas stations and small convenience stores,” Gilliam said.

Costco led a push last year to privatize liquor sales through Initiative 1100, but 53 percent of voters rejected the measure. The company employs 2,700 people in Issaquah, more than any other business.

The initiative must go through the state process to establish a ballot title before petitions can be printed. Supporters expect signature gathering to begin in about a month. If supporters gather enough signatures, the measure could appear on the November ballot.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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