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National distillers association criticizes I-1183 provisions
Posted by Melissa Allison
The national association of spirits manufacturers has come out against parts of Initiative 1183, a measure backed by Costco Wholesale that would privatize liquor and deregulate wine distribution in Washington.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, which represents 13 large makers of liquor and 50 craft distilleries, says in new ads and on a website that the measure would raise prices, reduce selection and hurt small businesses by imposing a 10,000-square-foot minimum for stores selling liquor.
Interestingly, the No on I-1183 campaign has argued that the measure has a loophole that would allow nearly 1,000 mini marts and gas stations to sell liquor. There is considerable doubt about whether that’s true, but if it were, the Distilled Spirits Council appears to consider it a pro-small business opportunity.
The council also says I-1183 would decrease competition, which is a tricky argument to make in a state that has a single distributor and retailer of spirits -- the state itself. The group seems to mean that the measure would create a state with less competition than some other states and less than another privatization effort might yield -- again, if there were no 10,000-square-foot rule.
The group also dislikes that I-1183 would allow restaurants to buy limited quantities of liquor from retailers. It says that would add middlemen -- the retailer -- which is not in customers’ best interests.
Perhaps the most interesting point made by the council is one that has not gotten much attention in the initaitive campaign: I-1183 would make it difficult for liquor manufacturers to switch distributors if they became unhappy with their services, said Distilled Spirits Council senior vice president and spokesman Frank Coleman.
It’s a concept called franchise protection, which the council opposes nationally, just as it opposes competitive limitations like the 10,000-square-foot minimum in I-1183.
The group announced its critique the day after news that Costco has contributed twice as much money as its opposition in the corporate battle over the initiative.
Despite the ads and new website, Coleman insists the council remains neutral on I-1183.
“We get to be what we want to be, and we are completely neutral on privatization and 1183, but there are principles on a national level that we have always opposed,” Coleman said.
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