Liquor Privatization

Hard alcohol is much more convenient to buy in Washington these days.

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber says he has concerns about proposals to allow grocery stores to sell hard liquor.

Chris Lehman

Oregon grocery store owners want to sell hard liquor, just like their counterparts in Washington do. There’s a liquor privatization initiative in the works for this November. But Oregon lawmakers are considering changes of their own as a possible way to head off the ballot measure.

Oregon voters could have the chance to follow Washington's lead next year when it comes to liquor sales.

The Washington State Patrol has compiled a full year of data covering drunk driving arrests and crashes since private retailers took over liquor sales in the state.

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

As of June 1, it will be one year since grocers, big box stores and other private retailers started selling liquor in Washington state. The voter approved privatization initiative has sent prices unexpectedly higher. Also, the government is collecting more tax revenue than anticipated.

Austin Jenkins / Northwest News Network

Statewide liquor sales in Washington are up since privatization took effect in June. But business is down dramatically at some former state-owned liquor stores.

Wash. Shoppers React To Liquor In Grocery Stores

Jun 1, 2012
Photo by Ashley Gross, KPLU / Northwest News Network

The state of Washington has officially bid good riddance to its state run liquor stores. About five times as many stores will now sell hard liquor, and the new law that went into effect Friday means shoppers can head to supermarkets to buy vodka or rum. It’s a welcome change for some people, but not for everyone.

Shoppers gave their reactions outside of a Costco warehouse in Seattle.

Alyssa Royse was loading up bottles.

"I came here just to by liquor. We've got tequila, vodka, gin and of course vermouth."

Photo credit: Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Private liquor sales start Friday in Washington. On the eve of the changeover, the state Supreme Court has upheld a voter-approved ballot measure to end the state's liquor monopoly.

The justices on the Washington Supreme Court reached a speedy decision on a challenge to the liquor privatization push. But the ruling was a close one. Five members of the high court upheld the voter-approved ballot measure, while four dissented.

At issue was whether the ballot measure violates the single subject rule. The liquor initiative includes provisions to privatize sales, raise the tax on spirits and earmark some revenues for public safety.