The wit, wisdom, zen, and philosophy of Paul Diamond Blow.

Washington State Liquor Stores
You can now buy hard booze in any Washington State grocery store. Here's the down low...

by Paul Diamond Blow

As of June 1, 2012, hard liquor sales in Washington State are no longer controlled by the state. The Washington state run liquor stores have all closed and you can now buy your hard booze in any grocery or retail store that has a license to sell liquor. This is the result of the Costco initiative that took the state out of the liquor business and turned it over to private enterprise. The initiative passed easily as most booze-drinking voters bought the line that prices would be lower and it would be more convenient to purchase liquor. However, consumers soon discovered that this is only partly true. Here's the down low on how liquor sales now fare for the consumer with this new law in effect...

Liquor prices are higher
Consumers in Washington State found on June 1st that liquor prices in the grocery and retail stores are actually HIGHER than they were at state run liquor stores, once all the taxes are added on to the listed retail prices. There is a 20.5% tax on liquor sales PLUS a "litre" tax ($3.77 per litre) in Washington State, PLUS the 9.9% sales tax added on top of all that. These taxes were included in the shelf prices at the state run stores, but are NOT included in the shelf prices in the grocery stores, so consumers thinking they are getting cheap liquor at Safeway find out that is not the case once it is rung up at the register and the taxes are added. A 1.5 litre bottle of whiskey with a retail price of $10.99 will actually cost about $20.00. This is what they call "sticker shock." On average, prices on booze have increased 15-25% over what they were in the state run stores.

The selection is smaller
Consumers also found that liquor selections are much smaller due to the fact that most grocery and retail stores selling liquor do not dedicate nearly as much space to liquor as the state run stores did. In the grocery and retail stores you will find mostly the "name brand" liquor, and they do not at this time sell anything smaller than 750 ml bottles -- fifths of liquor and "airplane bottles" are not currently sold in the retail and grocery stores. You can, however, still buy liquor at the old state run stores (that are now privately owned) where they should have a much larger selection.

Convenience is better
It is much more convenient to purchase liquor at retail and grocery stores since many grocery stores selling liquor are open 24 hours, so you have until 2 AM to buy your hard booze now. Most state run liquor stores closed at 9-10 PM. Plus, it is of course more convenient to go the the neighborhood grocery or liquor store to buy booze than it was to go to the state run stores. As of this time, this seems to be the only benefit for consumers of turning liquor sales over to the private sector.