(This guest Slog post is by Heather McClung, an owner of Schooner Exact Brewing in Seattle and president of the Washington Brewers Guild. For more information, you can read the voters' guide statements on I-1100 and I-1105.)
Most of the debate around I-1100 and I-1105—the hard liquor initiatives—is all about the big boys: big box stores and big grocery stores vs. distributors vs. labor unions and “Big Beer.”
Well, I’m not a boy, and I’m not so big. I’m certainly not Big Beer. As the owner of Schooner Exact Brewing and the president of the Washington Brewers Guild, I’m considered a small craft brewer—10 barrels at a time from a brewery two miles south of the stadiums. We’re a growing operation, adding an employee a month. But Initiative I-1100 in particular could kill my business.
So my biggest concern about I-1100 and I-1105 isn’t about cuts to public services or the massive increase in hard liquor outlets. Granted, those are important issues, but for me, defeating these initiatives is about survival, of my business and hundreds more Washington craft breweries and wineries across the state.
The reason for my opposition isn’t getting nearly enough attention amid all the back and forth on TV, in direct mail and on the internet. What makes I-1100—which was written by right-wing blogger Stefan Sharkansky—such a problem is the way it summarily eviscerates 39 state laws that give us future big boys a level playing field against the current big boys.
A few examples of what that means: If 1100 passes, big producers would undercut us smaller producers by offering large volume discounts to restaurants and retailers. Big companies could buy space on grocery store shelves, pushing aside smaller Washington-based beer and wine labels. Big companies could give away product and essentially bribe bar owners with promotional enticements.
The idea that I-1100 “modernizes” state liquor laws is a crock. This is really a power grab by some very large corporations who want to use their considerable weight to monopolize liquor sales. And this isn’t about “competition.” I’m all for competition. The truth is 1100 kills competition.
I-1105 is marginally less bad compared to I-1100 for small brewers and the smaller wineries, but we are certainly concerned about I-1105’s provision that repeals all liquor taxes in Washington State.
The Stranger dismisses the impressively broad coalition of business, labor, faith, law enforcement and local government urging a No/No as: “…oppos(ing) these initiatives because they want to protect the profits of beer megacorporations.” Oh really? F that. I wake up every day with the burning desire to take profits away from those megacorps—most of which, BTW, aren’t so mega, and employ thousands of Washingtonians. I would never have joined forces with them to fight these stupid initiatives if I didn’t have a damn good reason.
The central point The Stranger seems to miss is this: You don’t get good public policy by passing bad public policy. Initiatives I-1100 and I-1105 are bad public policy. That’s why the vast majority of craft brewers—including me—will be voting No and No on I-1100 and I-1105.