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Costco’s Double Standard on Initiative Petitions

Costco implemented a policy a number of years ago to prohibit citizen’s collecting signatures for initiative petitions outside their stores. This is despite many other retail establishments allowing petition signature gatherers to exercise their right under the Washington State Constitution to collect signatures on initiatives.

Now however when it is in their financial self interest, the Seattle Times reports that Costco will be setting up tables inside 26 of their warehouse stores staffed by employees who will obviously be paid to help Costco get into the liquor business by asking shoppers to sign Initiative 1100.  Costco currently sells beer and wine in their stores.

Of three versions of the initiative Costco went for the free market approach that removed cost controls on the price of liquor. As noted in the Seattle Times article, this will probably lead to large stores like Costco undercutting prices of small stores to drive up sales.

The Seattle Times article also notes that

If I-1100 is passed by voters it would remove some $665 million in revenue from the state budget, based on fiscial year 2008 & 2009 figures.  The state is currently suffering from severe budget cuts and this will only add to an already projected additional budget shortfall for next year.

“… some law-enforcement and temperance representatives also oppose letting retailers like Costco sell liquor.

John Guadnola, executive director of the Washington Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association, said the group does not have an official position on the initiative but that he personally supports keeping the current regulatory system.

Price controls and other regulations minimize alcohol abuse and related problems such as domestic violence and workplace problems, he said.

“In Great Britain, they’re selling beer as loss leaders in grocery stores,” Guadnola said. “It’s easy access to alcohol, and the lower the price, the more the consumption.”

Here is the official Ballot Title and summary from the Secretary of States website:

Statement of Subject: Initiative Measure No. 1100 concerns liquor (beer, wine and spirits).
Concise Description: This measure would close state liquor stores; authorize sale, distribution, and importation of spirits by private parties; and repeal certain requirements that govern the business operations of beer and wine distributers and producers.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

Ballot Measure Summary
This measure would direct the liquor control board to close all state liquor stores; terminate contracts with private stores selling liquor; and authorize the state to issue licenses that allow spirits (hard liquor) to be sold, distributed, and imported by private parties. It would repeal uniform pricing and certain other requirements governing business operations for distributors and producers of beer and wine. Stores that held contracts to sell spirits could convert to liquor retailer licenses.

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