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Published: Friday, May 24, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View: Alcohol sales


Let's toast the liquor law

How's the state's nearly year-old liquor-privatization law working out for everyone?
Here are a few things randomly observed in Snohomish County in the past couple of months:
•In the middle of a lovely weekend day, a man running out of the grocery store with a gallon of liquor in each hand, and jumping into an idling SUV sitting outside the entrance (and blocking the little crosswalk into the store). As the getaway car sped off, the clerks looked at each other like, "What are you going to do?" Which is exactly right, since they are not law enforcement. However, moving the liquor away from the entrance of the store would be a start.
A man highly embarrassed for the long wait created at the check-out line at another grocery store, as the clerk hunted down the right key to unlock the cabinet that holds the "top shelf" (expensive) liquor. How much more convenient for everyone.
Stores that once only sold liquor, now selling cigarettes and other items in a failing attempt to remain competitive with grocery stores.
Stores that put mini-bottles near the check-out counter, like it was gum, apparently in order to remain competitive with grocery stores.
With the state liquor control board busy coming up with regulations regarding the implementation of Initiative 502, the legalization of marijuana, information about after-effects of the Initiative 1183 doesn't garner much attention.
In April, KING 5 Investigators reported that 82 citations for selling alcohol to minors have been issued to "spirits retailers" across Washington since the law took effect last June. The state says that the compliance rate remains the same as when the state ran the stores -- 93 percent of retailers are following the law and don't sell to minors. Well, that's true for the big grocery store and drug stores, where the state has run its "stings." But the big stores aren't the real concern in this area.
What about all the many, many smaller stores trying to compete with the bigger stores? The liquor control board, KING reported, hopes to conduct compliance checks at every retailer before the one-year anniversary of the new law. Good luck with that. (Compliance checks, or "stings," involve sending "trained" high school students into retailers who attempt to buy liquor. While enforcement is an art, not a science, this approach has flaws, including the one-time nature of it for smaller stores.)
What about shoplifting data? Are stores required to report how much liquor they lose to theft?
But these are nitpicks, considering the initiative was passed by consumers seeking lower liquor prices. How's that working out for everybody?

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Herald Editorial Board

Peter Jackson, Opinion Editor: pjackson@heraldnet.com (@PeterJHerald)

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor: npattison@heraldnet.com

Josh O'Connor, Publisher: joconnor@heraldnet.com

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