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Topic: liquor privatization

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February 1, 2013 at 6:02 AM

A battle over liquor sales to restaurants and bars

A fight about liquor sales to restaurants and bars erupted last week at the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee in Olympia. It’s a fight about how Washington’s new privatized liquor system works, who is allowed to do make money doing what. It is between the same sides as fought over Initiative 1183.

Opinion Northwest is a blog for writers who take sides, so I’ll put my cards on the table. I supported 1183 and the privatization of liquor, taking the side of Costco, the restaurants and grocery chains against the liquor distributors and the grocery independents. My sympathies have not changed. But the fight I describe here has reasonable arguments on both sides. It’s complicated, and explaining it takes a lot of words. This time I’m not worrying about my own opinion.

The two sides define the issue differently. The Costco and restaurants’ side says the issue is the freedom to compete, to serve the consumer and not have restaurants and bars subjected to a wholesale duopoly. The distributors’ side says the issue is Costco creating an unfair advantage for itself under the law it wrote and put up the money to pass. (Costco wrote Initiative 1183 and spent nearly $20 million on the campaign to pass it.)

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