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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

Topic: Costco

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June 6, 2012 at 11:30 AM

I-1183: from ballot to bottle service

Washingtonians began June with a new opportunity to purchase hard liquor in non–state retail outlets. The UW Election Eye team was out that first Friday looking for clues as to what the new drinking landscape looked like from the bar stool perspective.

SEATTLE — Last week marked the end of a 78-year old system and a multi-year battle to get liquor on the shelves of private retailers. During the 2010 election cycle, two initiatives were

"Dark and Stormy" craft cocktail prepared at Hazelwood in Ballard. (Photo by Dan Thornton / UW Election Eye)

put forth to the people — I-1100 and I-1105 — both aiming to get liquor out of the state-run stores and both failed. Last year, only one initiative was on the ballot concerning liquor distribution and it was backed by more than $20 million from Costco. And it passed.

Since last November, the state, retailers and new distributors have been moving quickly to transition from the 78-year old system. Friday, June 1st marked the first day that state liquor stores were out and private distributors and retailers were in.

Costco was not the only store to provide liquor to its customers on June 1. From Safeway to Fred Meyer, from QFC to Bartell Drugs, retailers made room for the new products on their shelves. The impacts of the new distribution system reach beyond the newly stocked shelves of grocers and the empty ones of the now defunct state stores. A privatized distribution system means new prices (for now, higher prices), new products and potentially new menus at local bars.

At Hazlewood, a craft cocktail bar in Ballard, the staff on hand on Friday had mixed feelings about the change. Tending the bar during the first happy hour of the new era, Hazelwood co-owner Keith Bartoloni described the new system as a challenge for bar owners and managers to be more resourceful. After the two main distributors, Southern Spirits and Young’s Market, bar owners are still waiting to see what products get picked up and where they will need to go to stock their bars. “Craft cocktailers will need to do a little more shopping.”


Comments | More in State | Topics: Costco, Hazlewood, I-1183

May 2, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Early liquor store closures hint at trouble for neighboring businesses

State Liquor Store No. 72 in Mercer Island closed ahead of the transition to private liquor sales (Photo by Azusa Uchikura/UW Election Eye).

The transition to private liquor sales is just a month away, but some Washington State liquor stores are closing early as employees jump ship. That’s got neighboring businesses worried about what will happen if stores stay vacant come June 1st.

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — Mercer Island only had one liquor store. It was in a tiny plaza with a pediatric clinic, an office for an online bike store and a True Value hardware store with a spots bar on top.

There’s still about a month to go until the state government officially steps out of the liquor business, prompted by the passage of Initiative 1183 last year. But state liquor store No. 72, along 13 other stores around the state, closed its doors earlier than expected last Thursday, leaving the plaza looking empty.

The early closures were the result of a shortage of employees, as liquor store workers move on to new jobs before they’re laid off (or possibly rehired by new private owners) next month.

True Value, the only other physical retail store in the plaza, is already seeing an effect on business.

“We’re definitely losing customers,” says Tony Machis, who works at the True Value, though it’s tough to tell the exact numbers yet since the liquor store only closed a few days ago.

Even though this particular store is going to reopen in the same location, Machis says he’s still worried about business in the plaza. QFC is less than half a mile away, and since they’ll also be stocking liquor in June, the competition will be fierce.


Comments | More in Local | Topics: Costco, Initiative 1183, Liquor Store