What is Washington I-1183?
October 28, 2011
This election is sort of deja vu for Washington voters, as we will be voting on Initiative 1183, which does away with Washington run liquor stores and allows private businesses to sell hard alcohol. Last year, we voted on I-1100, which sort of did the same thing, but it failed. The result was the I-1100 writer/sponsor Costco believed that if they fixed some issues with I-1100 and tried again, it would pass. So, I-1183 was born.
Trying to read the 60 page legal text is a bit difficult, but most everything is in the first section. This is how I broke it down:
- The people of Washington find the state government’s monopoly on liquor distribution outdated, inefficient, and costly. Therefore, they want to privatize and modernize wholesale distribution and retail sales.
- This initiative will:
- Privatize distribution and retail sales of liquor to reduce government costs and provide increased funding for state and local government services while still regulating
- Get the government out of the commercial business of liquor, freeing up the government’s energies to enforcement of laws and public safety regarding liquor
- Have the state auction off its existing distribution, facilities, and equipment
- Allow private distributors to get a license if they meet requirements set by the State
- Private distributors most pay 10% of their gross spirits revenues to the state for the first two years and 5% of their gross spirits revenues to the state after
- Allow a limited number of retail stores to sell liquor if they meet requirements
- Regulate that a store must have 10,000 sq ft of enclosed retail space in order to get a license
- Require a store to demonstrate it can prevent sales of alcohol to minors before obtaining a license.
- Ensure local communities have input before a liquor license is issued
- Require private licensed retailers to pay 17% of their gross spirits revenues to the state
- Maintain the current distribution of the liquor revenues to the local governments and dedicate a portion of new revenues to increase funding for local public safety.
- Have standard fines and license suspensions for selling liquor to minors twice as strong as existing fines.
- Requires training of employees selling spirits more stringent
- Allow wine distributors and wineries to give volumn discounts at wholesale prices to retail stores and restaurants
- Allow retailers and restaurants to distribute wine to their own stores from a central warehouse
The next two sections of the law are kind of boring. Section 102 change 66.24 RCW by stating that licensed distributors may begin selling spirits on March 1, 2012, and licensed retailers may begin selling spirits on June 1, 2012. They must have filed for their license 60 days before those dates, and be approved for licensing before those dates in order to participate. The rest of the section is about how long the state may stay in operation and how the state must transition to a private liquor distribution/sales system. Section 103 adds to 66.24 RCW, speficing things like packaging, sale and resale, keeping stock, reporting, and more. An interesting part is 103-3:
- Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) , retail licenses can only be granted to areas at least 10,000 sq ft in fully enclosed retail spaces in a single structure.
- Licenses and renewals are still subject to RCW 66.24.010, but grocery stores licensed to sell beer and wine are “now licensed” under RCW 66.24.010(9)(1) if they want to sell spirits.
- If a current state run liquor store is sold at auction per Section 102, that store may not be denied a spirits retail license.
At this point, I’m to page 8 of the document. It talks about paying for licenses, cost of a license, penalties, and compliance training. I kept reading to page 14, but it is really just wording of licenses, types, regulations, enforcement, etc. I honestly believe that Section 101 was the heart of this initiative, and pretty much anything you want to know can be found there. Admittedly, there is some stuff I missed, but you can catch that in my recommended further reading.
Further reading: “What to consider in deciding on I-1183. Liquor vote: Both sides stretch the truth in ads,” by Jordan Schrader, The Olympian, October 26, 2011. This is a good fact checker story breaking down the campaign ads.