Expect politicking to begin in Oregon following Washington voter approval Tuesday of a Costco-bankrolled ballot measure to privatize state-run liquor stores and allow consumers to buy booze in grocery outlets.
Oregon has a similar liquor monopoly that purchases, distributes and sells distilled spirits. Despite grumbling and enterprising residents who pick up a trunk load of their favorite liquors in California or Nevada, there hasn't been much effort to remove the state monopoly. With the victory in Washington, don't be surprised to see that grumbling bubble to the surface in either significant legislation or a like-kind ballot measure.
Costco, which is based in Issaquah, Washington, dropped the lion's share of the $23 million contributed to pass Initiative 1183. It hasn't given any indication it will look to Oregon next, but most observers think it is logical to assume it would so it can consolidate purchasing for all of its West Coast outlets.
Joe Giliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, attributed the success of the initiative to convenience. "The voters would really like to have this convenience," Gilliam said.
Convenience is the reason why the Oregon Liquor Control Commission has experimented with placing state-run liquor stores inside grocery stores. OLCC has expressed interest in broadening the experiment, and the Washington vote on I-1183 probably provides additional impetus.
Passage of the Washington ballot measure may not be the last word. Washington operates 328 liquor outlets, about half run by state employees and the rest through contractors. State officials must close 164 state-owned stores and lay off more than 900 employees, who are members of a union. The 159 stores managed by private contractors may compete for licenses to continue to operate.