SEATTLE — A ballot initiative in Washington to deregulate liquor sales has failed, while another appears to be headed in the same direction, according to published reports.
The Seattle Times reported Wednesday that Initiative-1105, which would abolish state liquor taxes and require retailers to buy liquor from distributors, failed with less than 37% of the vote. A second initiative, I-1100, which mass merchandiser Costco had strongly promoted, had around 48% of the vote with more than half the votes counted, according to the Times.
I-1100 would have allowed private retailers to sell liquor. Under a system in place since 1934, Washington has some of the strictest alcohol regulations in the country, with sales of liquor permitted only at state-owned liquor stores, identifiable by their generic “Liquor & Wine” storefront signs. Private retailers are permitted to sell beer and wine.
Opponents said a victory for I-1100 would deprive the state of millions of dollars in revenue annually. According to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the current system has added $4 billion to state coffers since its implementation. Supporters said the system had the state “living in the shadow of Prohibition,” and that deregulation would allow competition and fair pricing.