The two sides of the liquor sale ballot initiatives

The two sides of the liquor sale ballot initiatives »Play Video
Liquor is on display at a Virginia Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) store in Richmond, Va.
SEATTLE -- The battle over booze control moved to a Seattle bar on Tuesday night.

Initiatives 1100 and 1105, in short, would both end the state's monopoly on liquor sales. But many people have more than a few words to say about these measures.

The supporters and the opponents of the initiatives sounded off in a debate at the Crocodile.

I-1100 would essentially allow private retailers to sell alcohol and get the state out of the liquor business altogether. I-1105, on the other had, would transfer the monopoly from the state to a small number of national liquor distributors.

Opponents say neither is needed.

"They will never sell enough unless everyone starts putting liquor in their coffee. They'll never sell enough liquor," said one person.

The markup and taxes on hard liquor sales brings in more than $360 million every year to the state. Supporters of state-run liquor say it's about hanging on to that money.

But backers of the initiatives feel the state's liquor laws are antiquated.

"Basically, our liquor laws have been around now for 75-years - just after prohibition, and it's really time for our state to modernize our liquor laws for the way that we live today," said I-1100 spokesperson Ashley Bach.

In 31 states across the country where liquor can be purchased in private stores, those states have the same rules for age restrictions and safety as Washington state. But the biggest difference is in convenience, selection and, most of all, price.

"Well, I think the price of convenience is that kids are going to get a hold of alcohol. We have one of the best states when it comes to not selling alcohol to minors," said Rep. Brandon Williams, D-Olympia.

"Our state liquor board, instead of having a conflict of interest, you know, they have 800 employees dedicated to sales and only 80 dedicated to enforcement," Bach said. "Under 1100, they'll be able to focus on entirely on enforcement that's going to make our state safer, and we just think that's good for Washington."

Washington is one of 18 states which currently operates an official monopoly over sales of hard liquor. Voters here last considered privatizing liquor sales back in 1972 when the measure was defeated.