A resounding majority of Washington voters yesterday agreed the state shouldn't be in the booze business, voting to approve a Costco-backed measure to privatize liquor sales. The adoption of Initiative 1183 means state liquor stores - a vestige of laws adopted to smooth the reintroduction of legal alcohol following Prohibition - will close on June 1.
That much is clear. But it's not yet known how much tax revenue the new law will produce, nor whether it will ultimately create or eliminate jobs. Experts are also unsure how privatization will affect the average drinker: Will alcohol prices drop? Will grocery stores stock obscure spirits? Will craft distilleries flourish or fail under the new regulations?
Voracious last night polled a few observers who presumably have more than a casual interest in the answers to those questions. Here, a selection of reactions from locals involved in the liquor industry:
The wine merchant Steven Brown, 12th and Olive Wine Co.
The wine merchant
Steven Brown, 12th and Olive Wine Co.
"The voters voted for change and they're going to get it in a big way! Me? I'm a big fan of change; There is always great opportunity in chaos. As a native East Coaster, I'm already familiar with what's to come."
The bar owner Jamie Boudreau, Canon
Jamie Boudreau, Canon
"While I'm glad that the voters have said that they want the state out of the liquor business, it's unfortunate that it was via 1183. The 10,000 square-foot clause is going to make it more difficult to find small batch, limited production liquor, as the smaller brands and local distilleries will not be able to provide the quantity discount that the Costcos and Safeways of the world demand from their vendors (nor do these brands fly off of the shelves as demanded by these big companies.) If there is any doubt of this, look at the selection of wine and beer at any Safeway: dismal to anyone who appreciates either beverage.
I'm very concerned about the availability about what the state considers "special order" items, which for Canon are not "special" but necessity. Even if, miracle of miracles, the big box stores decided to bring in a few interesting things, it's going to be a year-plus of hardship for craft bars in this state.
Voting to privatize liquor was a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, it's a step in the favor of big business and at the expense of small business. The only people who win right now are those who never stray from their discount vodka and whiskey."
The distiller Kent Fleischmann, Dry Fly Distilling
Kent Fleischmann, Dry Fly Distilling
"Dry Fly has always supported the state's liquor system; as a small business, we have enjoyed the equality our brand received through this environment. The people have voted and now we look ahead to the new opportunities and challenges before us.
This is an exciting time for everyone. We will see new enterprises develop, jobs created, and we hope the expectations of the consumer will be met. Dry Fly will remain the spirit of Washington. We have always supported our state, our farmers and our customers."