Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Washhington State Cracks Open Three-Tier Mandates

Yesterday, Washington State voters passed an initiative to privatize spirit sales and facilitate a more open market. It essentially breaks up the state’s mandatory “three-tier system” for alcohol distribution. My colleague Michelle Minton and I have written about it here and here.

Now that the initiative has passed, the state can start issuing licenses to grocery stores and Costco to sell spirits beginning in June 2012. In addition, it allows Costco to buy direct from producers, centrally warehouse the liquor, and then distribute to its stores–passing savings on to consumers. It also allow retailers to sell to retailers.  Under Washington State Law, lawmakers cannot modify the initiative for two years, preventing the legislature from reversing it before implementation. Hopefully, within two years time, state lawmakers will be open to granting smaller retailers the right to sell spirits too.  The new law only grants that right to those who eventually buy existing government stores and retailers with 10,000 or more square feet of space.

Costco and supermarkets can sell alcohol in some states, but some states only allow private retailers to only sell beer or beer and wine. See Costco’s list here. Now Washington retailers can sell all three! Costco may take its battle to other states … perhaps starting with Oregon. Let’s hope they prevail in Oregon and beyond.

Image credit:  bigbirdz’s photostream.

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