Saturday, October 29, 2011

Washington State Initiative 1183 Will Impact Wine In Oregon

I’m not one to get into political debates. I don’t even like talking to people about my voting preferences. However, there is a bill coming up for election in Washington that may greatly affect your wine buying and I think you should simply be aware of its impacts.

This bill is a hotly debated bill in the state of Washington. Initially I thought this wouldn’t effect anyone living outside of our state, however the more I ponder this bill I think that the wine industry and our region will be very greatly affected.

The reason for the affect is that wine country is located very much on the borders of Oregon and Idaho. Many people who work in Washington wine live in Hermiston, Pendleton, and Milton Freewater.

Conversely, I also know that many people from those towns come to Costco in Washington to shop and take advantage of not paying sales tax in Washington while receiving the great prices on items that would simply cost more in those towns.

In the last election, and in the current upcoming state election Costco has mounted a full force effort at passing what is now Initiative 1183. As it stands now any store that is more than 10,000 square feet in size and wishes to participate will be allowed to sell hard liquor. It will abolish state liquor stores, and allow for individual companies to purchase the ability to operate a liquor store in the existing spaces.

The bill will also abolish the standing laws concerning wine distribution in the state, and allow retailers to purchase wines at any agreed price directly from the manufacturer. There will be no longer a need for wine distributors in the State of Washington.

“So”, you say, “How does this affect me?”

First, understand that all wine in this region is picked up from the manufacturer, delivered to a warehouse, and then distributed out to individual retailers and establishments by a bonded distributor who pays the taxes. If the bill passes these distributors will no longer be needed, especially in situations such as WalMart and other large chain stores.

Seems like a pretty good deal huh? Well, actually maybe not. The problem is that distributors make all their money on delivering their goods to the large entities. They actually lose money or barely break even on distributing to restaurants and smaller stores such as convenience stores.

When distributors are short cut by these large retailers they will no longer have any reason to carry those wines for the small people. The only answer is that wineries will have to start selling their wines door to door in order to keep smaller businesses selling their product. This will actually cost more, and hurt supply.

Second, it seems like a good deal that we’ll be able to buy booze and wine at really cheap prices from Costco. Doesn’t it? Ask the small retailer who has his kids in your classes, has you do her hair, or buys a burger every day at your drive-in. They are already hurt by Costco and WalMart’s burn and pillage methods. It’s no wonder that Costco has paid $11 million to win this campaign. They stand to earn a lot of money very quickly when they get this bill to go through.

Oh, and by the way, buying wine and booze in one state and transporting it across state lines back to Oregon is against the law in both states. I recommend buying local.



  1. Are you telling me that buying out of state is illeagel while the state operates a monopoly with prices that are above any one else along with poor hours and service. I will buy where I please and to hell with the state. I will make my own decsions where I buy my products. I do not need government to make them!!!

  2. You know that if that is the case that vineyards have to sell "door-to-door" that a distributor will offer their services for a % of sales. It may no longer be required by state law, but when there is a need, there will be someone offering a service. What this really means is wine and beer prices might rise at the small stores (due to distributor cuts), while liquor price falls. I'm fine with that.


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