Urgent: Washinton’s Bottle Shops Need Your Help! Support SB 5731


5731 update…
– Speaker Chopp is now our only potential savior; he has until Friday to get it into committee
– Dead in Rep. Hurst’s committee as of last Friday (emails to him are pointless)
– We are putting full-on press to contact Speaker Chopp; I just finished sending a couple hundred personal emails to
rally in support. Whooo– I’m exhausted! Hopefully some press will come. Below is the press release.

Send all emails to Speaker Frank Chopp — and only to Speaker Chopp.
[email protected]

UPDATED Feb 27. See original post below.
Here is a very simple message you can email.

I’m writing to express my support for SB 5731. Get it out of committee and up for a vote. This bill would allow Washington’s Specialty Beer & Wine Shops to sell craft-distilled spirits. Show that you support small businesses by supporting this bill.

Senate Bill 5731 makes sense. It is good for small business. It is good for Washington’s Specialty Beer & Wine Shops, it is good for Washington’s craft distillers, and it is good for the consumer. I see no reasons to oppose SB 5731 or to delay its consideration by the House.

Specialty Beer & Wine Shops are exactly the kind of business we can trust to sell liquor in Washington. Managing the safe, legal sale of alcohol is their core competency.

Here’s who to email it to:
[email protected],
[email protected],
[email protected],
[email protected]

Original Post:

There is currently a bill before the Washington State Legislature that would allow Beer & Wine Specialty Shops to sell liquor. More specifically, to sell craft-distilled products. The Washington Beer Blog encourages you to contact your representatives and tell them to support Senate Bill 5731. Sadly, the bill is in jeopardy. It passed a vote in the State Senate by an overwhelming majority (43 Yea to 4 Nay), but is now stalled in committee in the House. We need to tell them to get it moving again.

There is a lot to this issue, I’m not going to pretend to know everything, and I am not going to try to explain it all. For a deeper understanding of SB 5731, I strongly encourage you to see the post that Tiffany Adamowski wrote. She is the owner of 99 Bottles in Federal Way and has a deeper understanding of the issue. Read Tiffany’s post here.  Also, you can read the actual bill here.

To show your support, contact your representative and tell them that you want SB 5731 to move forward. In particular, contact Representative Christopher Hurst, who is the chair of the Washington State Government & Accountability Committee.

Find and contact your legislator: http://app.leg.wa.gov/districtfinder/

Email or call Representative Hurst: [email protected] (360) 786-7866

In Washington, our Beer & Wine Specialty Shops are prohibited from selling spirits because of their size. In my opinion, that defies logic. Beer & Wine Specialty Shops are exactly the kinds of shops we should trust to sell liquor. Selling booze is their core competency, yet the passage of Initiative 1183, which privatized liquor sales, specifically forbade them from selling spirits. Remember the 10,00 square-foot rule? SB 5731 addresses that oversight. (It really wasn’t an oversight; it was intentional.)

Understand, Beer & Wine Specialty Shop is a type store, but also a type of license granted by the Liquor Control Board. It is an official term that describes business operating under that license type. In every instance that I’m aware of, these are small, privately owned, owner-operated businesses.

I don’t want to turn this into a conversation about the pros and cons of Initiative 1138, but we all know why the framers of that initiative excluded stores smaller than 10,000 square-feet from selling liquor. Let’s not argue about that stuff again. Rather, let’s fix it. At least, let’s fix this one aspect of the law. Let’s allow Specialty Beer & Wine Shops to sell craft-distilled spirits. Let’s support SB 5731.

I understand why we would not want every little store, on every corner, selling liquor, but we are talking about businesses specially licensed to sell alcohol. Managing the safe and legal sale of alcohol is their core competency. We cannot trust everyone, but these are the people we can trust.

I don’t know if all Specialty Beer & Wine Shops want to sell liquor, but they all should have the option.

As I understand it, the bill currently languishes in committee and is unlikely to see a vote because of concerns raised by the auction stores. What’s an auction store? After we passed I-1183, the state auctioned off many of its liquor stores. The state allowed individuals to purchase turnkey booze businesses – in most instances, the only stores in the state smaller than 10,000 square-feet allowed to sell liquor. Many of them have failed to survive in the face of the increased competition created by I-1138 and have now gone out of business.

The auction stores that remain in business are looking to the legislature for concessions that will help them succeed. SB 5731 does not address the concerns of the auction stores, so the auctions stores opposing it. They have received some sympathy in Olympia, apparently from Representative Hurst if no one else.

The auction stores should write their own bill and not block this one. SB 5371 specifically addresses Beer & Wine Specialty Shops and it only deals with craft-distilled spirits.

I’ve been told that 60 percent of the auction stores have gone out of business. Now, many of the remaining auction stores seek to change their business model and morph into something more akin to a convenience store that happens to also liquor. Basically, the auction stores are transitioning into “C-stores.” Thus, and this is an assumption on my part, the auction stores now find themselves aligned with the very powerful C-store lobby.  Yes, C-stores have their own lobby and, yes, they are very powerful in Washington.

Admittedly, I’m getting a bit off-point here, but if you’ve spent much time in California, you’re probably familiar with the concept of a liquor convenience store. Maybe they delight you. Maybe they horrify you.

We let Costco write the last round of liquor laws. Do we want to allow 7-Eleven to write the next?

Don’t get me wrong, I want the auction stores to succeed, just not at the expense of other small businesses.

But I digress. Let’s not worry about the auction stores and the C-store lobby. Let’s just move forward with SB 5731.

Senate Bill 5731 makes sense. It is good for small business. It is good for Washington’s Specialty Beer & Wine Shops, it is good for Washington’s craft distillers, and it is good for the consumer. In my opinion, any reason to oppose SB 5731 is nefarious.

Please join me in supporting SB 5731. Contact Representative Christopher Hurst and tell him to get this bill moving again. Currently it is stalled in the committee he chairs – the Washington State Government & Accountability Committee.  Contact your own representative and tell them that you want them to support small business. You want them to support SB 5731

Let’s move this thing forward. Get it out of committee and let’s get a vote.

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