Beer brewers and drinkers opposed to privatization of state liquor sales? Indeed, says Heather McClung, president of the Washington Brewers Guild, which represents the state's small craft breweries and, roundaboutly, craft-brew drinkers. Her industry is lined up against I-1100 - though still weighing I-1105 - the privatization measures headed for the November ballot and detailed in last week's SW cover story. "There is something that is being left out of the discussion it seems," says McClung.
I-1100, for example, is actively promoted as a modernizing of liquor laws, she says, when it's actually a sweeping proposal that repeals 39 state laws, enabling the biggest retailers, distributors, and producers to own and give favorable pricing to each other. That, says McClung, of Seattle's Schooner Exact Brewing Company, would eliminate the level playing field that small breweries such as hers need if they are to prosper.
The craft brewers guild has around 50 members across the state, from, alphabetically, Airways Brewing (Kent) to Yakima Craft; many are Seattle brewers including Ram, Pyramid, Pike, Hales, Elysian. Fremont, Georgetown and Redhook. In a position paper the brewers are about to release, they point out that the state is home to one of the fastest growing craft brewing industries in the country, and:
The majority of the Washington craft brewing industry is small businesses. I-1100 would stunt the growth of our industry as breweries encounter more competition and pressure to give discounts, free product and services to obtain shelf space or handles at big box stores, chain restaurants, and other retailers. A reduction of microbrew presence in the marketplace would have a disastrous effect on our burgeoning craft beer culture.
McClung says that "I-1100 deregulates the entire alcohol industry, not just spirits." She hopes that the public and media will "realize the effects of this proposal reach much farther than being able to purchase a bottle of Jack at a local convenience store." Here's more on the brewers' position.