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Jun 21, 2013 01:04 PM

How's That Liquor Privatization Workin' Out Ferya?

Well, my perception now is that, with the exceptions of the (few) new megabooze stores, the critics were correct: prices 'way up and selection 'way down. And I'm really starting to resent the wild (and wildly random) "sale" price rotations/fluctuations--unless you see an advertised special or catch a break, there's really no way to come even remotely close to the old WSLCB price + the new tax overlay. Walk into the wrong store on the wrong day, and the same bottle is a *lot* more than the day before or next door.

I also see the small operators starting to dry up and blow away.

Ain't the free market grand?

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  1. "the exceptions of the (few) new megabooze stores"

    Why do we have to "except" them? I love the Total Beer & Wine store (and to a much lesser extent BevMo). Much better selection than the old WSLCB stores and it feels cheaper (I haven't actually done a check...)

    Costco's been good too. Their bourbon and scotch are a steal.

    I guess you have to plan a little bit, or pay more for purchases on a whim, but that doesn't rankle me that much. I mean, pay a lot more for beer at the convenience store when I'm on the way to a friend's house than when it's on sale at Safeway a day earlier.

    2 Replies
    1. re: GreenYoshi

      "Why do we have to "except" them?"

      For me, it is because they are all a long drive from where I live and work, and visiting them means I will burn up half a day for the excursion. And those stores may "feel" cheaper than WSLCB, but they are not. I know what I paid for specific items that I stocked regularly, and even the "super stores" have significantly higher bottom line pricing than WSCLB stores.

      The reality is that within the same radius of home, for most Washington residents, the selection is indeed now far more narrow, and the prices are much higher.

      1. re: GreenYoshi

        Hi, GY: "Why do we have to except them?"

        Well, they're the exception to the rule. And few and far between. I have 6 "grocery"-type licensees within a mile. The nearest megabooze is 3 miles away, and it's not near anyplace else where I shop. So it's another special trip, and the prices are STILL high. It just tastes bad driving out of my way just to get fleeced a little less than at the truly rapacious grocers--I still get fleeced.

        I've only scrutinized Costco's selections/pricing at the SODO store (also a LONG way from me), and only about 3 times, but I wasn't wowed by their selection OR their prices. About the only things I thought were decently-priced were their house brands, which I won't serve to guests.

        I want my vote back.


      2. My experience is pretty much the same as yours. I loaded up pretty well on all the staples before the new law went into effect, because the new tax structure made it obvious that these items would jump in price. We've also taken to ordering scotch from the UK periodically, and just dealing with customs to clear it. It takes a pretty large order to make shipping affordable, so we only do this once in a while.

        I also had a friend who owned a local wine distributorship. I used to buy wine from them direct -- I got a great price and I loved the stuff he brought in. He went out of business shortly after the law came into effect. And, yeah, he's not the only small operator who has.

        1. Total Wine and More is can get some good deals..but overall I think its been terrible (the new taxes bumped the price up a great deal) and most of the selection is so crappy its barely worth it. Some of the scotches almost doubled in price...

          1. I've gone to mail order. Or duty free at the Canadian border.
            I just won't support WA State's greedy tax hungry maw.
            Mail Order - The plus is that you get a lot more variety.
            The minus is that to control shipping costs a six bottle order makes sense. (cents)
            I've been enjoying a variety of old rums from an outfit in St. Louis.

            4 Replies
            1. re: JayDK

              The law was written (by the retailers) to be revenue neutral.

              What's new is not the revenue taken by the state, what's new is the private profits, being taken at every level of the supply chain, and the higher overhead by having different entities handling logistics, distribution, and retail.

              When the state held the monopoly, there was much greater efficiency and economy of scale. The new system has more players, so is less efficient, and everyone in the chain is adding their profit margin to the shelf price.

              And of course much of that profit is now heading out of state, as with your mail order merchant, and to out-of-state companies with a presence in our market, like Safeway and Bev-Mo.

              Washington State actually forbids mail order for hard liquor, but some of the online retailers seem unaware (perhaps purposefully so) that their shipments here are illegal.

              1. re: Gizmo56

                It is not revenue neutral to the state; it was done to make money. And it does, at the expense and convenience of consumers, along with a large re-distribution of ownership of profitable locations. I reviewed the auction process carefully.

                1. re: Veggo

                  Many people labor under the mis-impression that the stiff taxes they see at check-out are new, and were the product of 1183, or were imposed by the state after passage of 1183.. In fact thosee taxes were there when WSLCB held the monopoly and were just part of the shelf price.

                  "Does This Change Affect the Rates of Spirits Taxes I Will Pay?
                  No. Initiative 1183 (I-1183) does not change the rates of spirits taxes that the general
                  public will pay. The general public still pays:
                  ▪▪Spirits sales tax at the rate of 20.5 percent of the selling price
                  ▪▪Spirits liter tax at the rate of $3.7708 per liter

                  If the Spirits Taxes Did Not Change, Then Why Did the Prices for
                  Spirits Change?
                  Effective June 1, 2012, the only price control on spirits is that spirits sellers cannot sell
                  below their cost.
                  For spirits sales to the general public, the selling price can include, but is not limited to:
                  ▪▪Cost of goods sold.
                  ▪▪Markup, which may include:
                  ▪▪ Federal, state and local taxes imposed on the seller
                  Note: Taxes imposed on the buyer are not included in the markup and
                  are required to be separately stated on a receipt, price list, or price tag.
                  ▪▪ License fees paid to Liquor Control Board (10% paid by distributors and
                  17% paid by spirits retailers)
                  ▪▪ Business expenses
                  ▪▪ Additional markup for desired profit"


                  Yes, "it was done to make money" ... for giant retailers like Costco, Fred Meyer, Safeway, etc.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    "Just 18 months after getting voter approval on the [I-1183] initiative, Costco is now brazenly pressing state legislators to remove the 17 percent fee.

                    If passed, second substitute House Bill 1161 would deprive the state of tens of millions in revenue, and give Costco, and other big retailers, an inequitable and unwarranted advantage over other private liquor distributors. Those other distributors paid more than $150 million in licensing fees. But as a retailer, Costco would be exempt.

                    These distributors have invested millions since the 2011 general election to re-create and improve on the state’s distribution for spirits and wine, which the initiative also closed. The Costco bill puts this system and the more than 1,000 family-wage jobs it created at risk.

                    It makes no sense to allow Costco to sell directly to restaurants without shouldering any of that burden and then reward them with a tax break. That would be a slap in the face to Washington taxpayers. And given the court-ordered mandate to fully fund K-12 education and the dire need to preserve and maintain our roads and bridges, it would be ridiculous to give back a voter-approved revenue source.

                    Let’s not forget that Costco itself included the 17 percent fee in its initiative in order to persuade voters to pass the measure."

                    Read more here:

              2. keep the bureauocrats/government out of my booze!

                1 Reply