If you enjoy a drink now and then and are not a big fan of archaic rules and fat bureaucracies, chances are you'd hate the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

The three members of the board, appointed by Governor Gary Locke, oversee an agency with an annual budget of over $67 million, more than 1,000 employees (including 88 full-time enforcement agents), and some of the most arcane laws on the books. It regulates every drop of hard alcohol that enters the state, operating 158 liquor stores and contracting out another 160. It decides how much booze costs; what brands are available; and which bars, clubs, and restaurants are allowed to sell alcohol--and which are not.

Board members earn big paychecks and cushy pensions, and if they want to run your favorite club out of business, they can. If you've ever wondered who killed the Backstage in Ballard, why Oscar's II and the Speakeasy are on the ropes, why people under 21 can't see bands at the Crocodile, or why a club has to sell food in order to sell booze, the answer is the Liquor Control Board.

So who are these guys, anyway?


Party affiliation: Republican.
Appointed: 1999.
Constituencies appeased by his appointment: Farmers, Republicans whom Gary Locke wants to befriend.
His drink: "Eye-talian" wine.
Deep thought: "You come off of a wheat ranch, it's kind of hard to understand what people do in Seattle."

Prince has been in Republican politics for 40 years, most recently as a state senator representing the Ninth District. A wheat farmer by trade, Prince never took a drink until he'd graduated from WSU with a degree in Ag Tech. After graduation, he was shipped over to Turkey on what he calls an "Eye-talian" boat, as part of a good-will ambassador program that predated the Peace Corps. Red wine was served each night with dinner, and on this trip Prince developed an appreciation for the civilizing qualities of the fermented grape.

Today, Prince's role as chair of the board makes him the state's booze overlord. He doesn't deny landing his $6,029/month job as a political favor from his good friend Governor Locke. Prince supported Locke's idea for a gas tax, a platform which ultimately cost Prince his position as ranking senator on the transportation committee. After his fellow Republicans ran Prince out of power, he decided to leave the State Senate for good. In order to hang onto his pension, he called his old friend the governor--master of the well-placed favor--who found him a job.

Prince doesn't have any particular expertise in selling or controlling liquor. The position of chair was simply "what was available at the time." He has been in charge of the Liquor Board since January, and his biggest challenge so far has been a cultural one: "You come off of a wheat ranch, it's kind of hard to understand what people do in Seattle."

Want to complain about the Liquor Board's role in shutting down Oscar's II? Prince can be reached at 360-753-6268.


Party affiliation
: "Nobody's ever asked me that question" (Democrat).
Appointed: 1997.
Constituencies appeased by his appointment: Latino community, disabled vets, state bureaucrats.
His drink: Black Jack.
Deep thought: "What business of ours is it what type of an oven somebody has?"

Jesse Farias hails from a family of migrant farm workers in the Yakima Valley. In 1968 he was injured in Vietnam, and came home a double amputee. Farias' bilingual skills earned him a job with the state Employment Security Department in 1969--he's been in and out of state government ever since, including a stint as Director of Veteran Affairs under Governor Booth Gardner.

Farias drinks Jack Daniel's whiskey, or "Black Jack," as he calls it. He travels extensively and is proud to report that Washington's prices compare favorably with those in places where liquor is less controlled, like Las Vegas. Still, he does concede that the board has "too many regulations. Some of them even I have difficulty understanding. I mean, what business of ours is it what type of an oven somebody has?"

Farias emphasizes the so-called advantages to state-run liquor sales. Last year liquor taxes and sales raised $166 million, which was mostly divided between the state's general fund ($96 million), city and county governments ($38.7 million), and the Health Care Authority ($18 million).

"I don't think you'll find cheaper prices if you privatize liquor sales," says Farias. "And what private business is going to return $40 million a year to cities and counties?"

Want to lodge a complaint about the closing of the Backstage? Jesse Farias can be reached at 360-753-6263.


Party affiliation:
Appointed: 1997.
Constituencies appeased by his appointment: Gay community, retired insurance agents, Democratic fundraisers.
His drink: An occasional Manhattan.
Deep thought: "Best job I ever had."

Charlie Brydon ran an insurance agency in Pioneer Square for years, but is best known for his work as a gay activist. Brydon is the founder and past president of Hands Off Washington and other gay rights groups that are now defunct. Like Prince, Brydon is close to the governor, having served on Locke's campaign steering committee during Locke's race for the governor's mansion. When Locke won, Brydon was rewarded with his current $5,733/month position, which he calls "the best job I've ever had."

Brydon enjoys a glass of good red wine with dinner and an occasional Manhattan. He argues that the "control model" used in Washington is "one of the most successful systems in the country." He also believes the Liquor Board should model its retail operations after the giants of Seattle's private sector: "We should have the same standards for quality of service as a Nordstrom or a QFC or a Starbucks."

Want to complain about the Liquor Board coming down on the Speakeasy Cafe? Charlie Brydon can be reached at 360-753-6265.