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Editorial: Don’t leap on state liquor stores

Washingtonians have buyers’ remorse after privatizing their system

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Posted: Thursday, January 31, 2013 10:00 am

Liquor is a magnet for politics. When that much money is at stake, there is money to be made in handling the arrangements that surround liquor sales. Washington voters are reaping the harvest of the liquor ballot intuitive they passed in 2011. Many Washingtonians are unhappy with the outcome, which has included higher prices and less variety.

Disillusionment among our neighbors has not deterred the Northwest Grocery Association from exploring a run at ending Oregon’s state-run system of liquor stores. As Jeff Mapes of The Oregonian reported Saturday, the grocers and Oregon beer and wine distributors are at odds on this proposal. The beer and wine distributors have polled Oregon voters and say they are aware of the buyer’s remorse in Washington.

Tangible evidence of unhappiness up north is profoundly increased liquor sales in stores that border the Columbia River. Willamette Week on Dec. 12 reported that, “Sales at OLCC stores in towns along the Washington border have exploded – jumping 33 percent from June through October, compared to the same period last year, according to records examined by WW.” Those jumps included 26 percent in Warrenton, 63 percent in Rainier and 43 percent in Portland’s Jantzen Beach.

All privatization is not equal or wise, even though politicians reliably will use that word as a crowd-pleaser. For instance, privatization of jails and prisons has led to some very strange outcomes. Before the Oregon Legislature or Oregon voters consider privatization of state-run liquor stores, we should give Washington’s experiment time to play out.

The initial outcome is not worth imitating.

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  • obmug posted at 7:55 pm on Mon, Feb 11, 2013.

    obmug Posts: 407

    Upon further analysis, sues, I'd say you've nailed it with the 'hardwire' premise. Look at the last two presidential elections.

  • obmug posted at 4:50 pm on Tue, Feb 5, 2013.

    obmug Posts: 407

    Pretty generalized argument in opening sentence of second paragraph.....what studies? What was studied?? Who did the studying??? Who paid for the studies????

  • prohemp posted at 3:00 pm on Fri, Feb 1, 2013.

    prohemp Posts: 58

    As I understand it, yes, Costco was the dominant contributor and force behind the Washington measure. As a long time (former) Washington resident, I was very glad to see the state removed from the retail side of the liquor business. The problems with limited selection and increased prices will eventually work themselves out as more experienced liquor retailers find their place in the market. If you think back to when any major change is implemented, you'll remember that there are often a ton of hiccups in the process. Hopefully a year or two from now the problems and complaints will have dramatically dwindled.

  • sues posted at 12:37 pm on Thu, Jan 31, 2013.

    sues Posts: 857

    Wasn't Costco behind the Washington measure?

    Studies demonstrate that if the corpos throw enough money at a project, the vote will end up 70% to 30%. Question is, can public education actually change this, or is it a hardwire problem, with humans who listen to endless repetitions of the same lies on teevee and radio being unable to analyse an issue independently?

    Sue S