Issaquah Chamber of Commerce endorses Costco-backed liquor initiative

October 15, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 p.m. Oct. 15, 2011

Costco-backed Initiative 1183, a ballot measure to loosen state liquor rules, received support from the Issaquah Chamber of Commerce, business leaders announced Oct. 14.

If passed, I-1183 calls for state-run liquor stores to close by June 2012. The measure also aims to require the state to license private enterprises to sell and distribute hard liquor, set license fees based on sales and regulate licensees.

Still, opponents said safety concerns remain about efforts to privatize the system and sell booze at more locations.

“The Issaquah chamber stands with our peers across the state in endorsing I-1183 as part of our collective goal to help support the Washington economy, encourage government reform and introduce competition into the marketplace within this industry,” chamber CEO Matthew Bott said in a statement.

The initiative’s major supporter, Costco, is the largest employer in Issaquah and is represented on chamber’s board. Overall, the chamber includes almost 500 member businesses and organizations.

Chamber leaders conducted forums, surveys and discussions on the liquor-privatization measure. Then, the chamber board voted overwhelmingly to endorse I-1183 late last month.

The measure is less comprehensive than Initiative 1100, a Costco-backed privatization measure rejected last November.

Unlike the unsuccessful initiative from last year, I-1183 limits hard liquor sales to stores of at least 10,000 square feet. (The average Costco encompasses about 140,000 square feet.) I-1100 aimed to allow smaller retailers, such as gas stations and convenience stores, to sell hard liquor.

“The changes that I-1183 will make to our state’s outdated liquor and wine law, will benefit consumers, local hospitality businesses and our customers,” Diane Symms, Lombardi’s Neighborhood Italian Restaurants president and CEO, and a chamber member, said in a statement.

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