Grocers vs. Government

State liquor monopoly overturned


After a long-running ad campaign that pitted grocery giant Costco against government liquor store employees, Washington voters decided in November to end the state's monopoly on the sale of distilled spirits. Grocery stores, which already sell beer and wine, will start selling liquor in June 2012. The ballot initiative also allows distilleries to sell their products directly to vendors, instead of working through a state-mandated, fee-collecting distributor.

Costco, which is based in Issaquah, Washington, spent $23 million campaigning against the state's liquor monopoly. "If a private company decides to spend tens of millions of dollars to pass a new law, to buy an election, can they do it?" Tom Geiger, a representative for unionized liquor store employees, asked The Seattle Times after the initiative passed. According to the Times, roughly 900 state employees will lose their jobs as a result of privatization.

But many of those 900 employees may still be able to find work hawking hooch. The state, which expects sales tax from private liquor sales to yield a net revenue increase of $80 million over the next six years, estimates that the number of outlets selling liquor in Washington will increase from 328 to 1,428.