In 2012, Washington State privatized retail liquor sales after a massive campaign funded by the big-box retailers who, as always, over-promised. Prices skyrocketed. Selection is worse. State revenue is down. Border bleed has worsened.
The latest report by Northwest News Network (Washington Liquor Privatization Continues To Drive Sales To Oregon, Idaho (February 2016) provides a primer on how the privateers have under-delivered. As the article states:

"The privatization of retail liquor sales in Washington State has delivered a sustained boost to the state liquor divisions in neighboring Idaho and Oregon."

"An analysis by the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute in Emeryville, California, published last year found that liquor prices rose by an average of 15.5 percent after privatization, but vary greatly by store type."

"Oregon liquor stores have also received a lasting boost from Washington consumers. Oregon Liquor Control Commission spokeswoman Christie Scott said she thinks it's not only because of the lower prices, but also because the state's liquor stores have "much better selection" than what the typical Washington grocery or drug store now stocks."

Lawmakers need to understand that prices will increase OR the state will lose money. As Sen. Chuck McIlhinney told CBS 21's Face the State in 2015:

Sen. McIlhinney: "The idea that you can take an asset that we're making money on right now and … get rid of it; have a new person come in they'll make money on it but we will still make the same amount or more money on and not have that affect the retail price of liquor….

CBS anchor: "So retail prices are going to go up?

Sen. McIlhinney: "Just like they did in the other states. In Washington … they have the highest prices for liquor in the country and they're getting a lot of complaints. But that's what it looks like if you're going to divest and try to maintain the same revenue stream."

Privatization results in higher prices, poorer selection, and a loss in state revenue.  So, why, exactly, are we having this debate?

Leave a comment:


Albert Brooks
  February 26, 2016 10:30am

Yes, a liquor store will have a better selection in general than a grocery store. However, when you compare a liquor store to a liquor store Washington has stores that stock more than the entire state of Oregon does and more than any Washington State Store ever did. According to the report from the state Office of Financial Management ( prices are up just over 10% not 15.5% and the state is making $50 million a year more. According to the Herald Business Journal (
Albert Brooks
  February 26, 2016 10:31am

According to the Herald Business Journal ( sales are up 21% in Washington even after the 27% fee increase. Apply that sales increase here WITHOUT and tax increase and the revenue collected would be the same or a little more than has been collected over the past 5 years.