Privatizing liquor hasn’t brought price down

MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — More than six months after privatization of the state’s liquor industry, the goal of lower prices has yet to materialize.

In fact, prices overall took a jump immediately after the changeover and have stayed near that level since.

The average price per liter of hard liquor after taxes statewide in October was $24.06, according to figures from the state Department of Revenue.

This is down slightly from the first month of privatization in June, but still more than 10 percent higher than the $21.59 at state liquor stores in October 2011.

“It’s gone up quite a bit,” said Trudy Brodie, of Edmonds, who manages the bar at the North City Eagles Club in Shoreline.

She was at Mountlake Terrace Liquor &Wine on Friday buying stock for the bar.

“We had to raise prices,” she said.

Stores larger than 10,000 square feet, along with some locations previously occupied by state liquor stores, were allowed to sell hard liquor starting in June following the passage of I-1183 in November 2011.

The ballot measure was designed to keep state and local governments from losing money in the transition.

The state’s previous spirits sales tax and liter taxes stayed in place. The state’s 51.9 percent mark-up went away, but has been replaced by fees of 10 percent on distributors and 17 percent on retailers.

“The private sector is adding its own markup as well,” said Brian Smith, a spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board.

Backers of I-1183, which passed with 59 percent of the vote, steered clear of claiming it would bring down prices, though it was mentioned as a possible by-product. Instead they touted other potential benefits.

“Yes on 1183 will create true competition in liquor and wine distribution and sales, strengthen liquor law enforcement, benefit Washington taxpayers and consumers and generate vitally needed new revenues for state and local services,” according to the argument for the initiative in the 2011 voters’ pamphlet.

The fee charged to distributors is scheduled to be cut in half in 2014, to 5 percent, which could help bring prices down, Smith said.

In June, the average liter price was $25.35, more than a dollar higher than October, according to state figures.

Some prices have gone up since then, some have dropped.

Some of the prices at smaller stores are higher than at large chain stores because the small retailers can’t get bulk discounts from distributors, said Leonard Daniel, who owns and operates Mountlake Terrace Liquor &Wine with his wife, Lori.

Also, each brand is often available from only one distributor, Leonard Daniel said. The right to distribute a brand is bought by the highest bidder.

“There’s no competition until you get down to this level and we’re just fighting for the crumbs,” he said.

The Daniels say they make up for their disadvantages with customer service and product knowledge, and by carrying a wider variety of brands and sizes than many of the bigger stores.

Lori Daniel managed the store on 44th Avenue W. when it was part of the state’s system. Sales have slowed since the changeover, she said.

“We’re very fortunate to be in the community we are,” she said. “They’ve really supported us.”

Brodie of the Eagles Club said she buys directly from distributors as well but goes to the Mountlake Terrace store to get items that aren’t available from distributors.

“They’re pretty good to me and they’re local,” she said of the Daniels.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Edmonds police are searching for Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, in the homicide of his roommate. If you see him, call 911. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Katharine Graham, then CEO and chairwoman of the board of The Washington Post Co., looks over a copy of The Daily Herald with Larry Hanson, then The Herald’s publisher, during her visit to Everett on Sept. 20, 1984. The Washington Post Co. owned The Herald from 1978 until 2013. (Herald archives)
Everett’s brush with Katharine Graham, leader of ‘The Post’

Retired Herald publisher Larry Hanson recalls The Washington Post publisher’s visits.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Camano Island man gets 18 years for role in drug ring

He was convicted of helping lead a drug distribution network in four Washington counties.

Most Read