A coalition of local organizations and individuals rallying behind the motto "Keep Our Kids Safe" says that a voter-backed initiative designed to get the state out of selling booze is a "major threat to public safety" that would increase kids' access to hard alcohol by 400 percent, if passed.
"We're hearing concerns raised by the Washington State Council of FIrefighters, mom-and-pop store owners, labor union folks, and the church coalition of greater Seattle," says Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the group. "Some members are philosophically opposed to privatizing liquor sales and others are concerned about these measures in particular."
State Initiative 1100, backed by Costco, is one of two proposed initiatives that would get the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) out of the liquor-selling business and give current beer-and-wine-license holders like convenience and grocery stores the ability to sell hard liquor. The Costco initiative is expected to turn over roughly 347,000 signatures to the Secretary of State's office today, well above the 241,153 valid signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot.
The coalition argues that if the Costco initiative passes, the number of liquor stores in the state will increase from roughly 340 outlets to more than 3,300. With that increase, says Kaushik, the WSLCB—which would still be in charge of liquor licensing and enforcement—can't hope to maintain its current 94 percent compliance rate for stores not selling to minors. States with privatized liquor sales have an average compliance rate of 75 percent (which is where the coalition gets its 400 percent increase in access to minors).
As I've noted before, the initiative could also end up costing the state money.
So how does the group plan on fighting this initiative, which is poised today to make the November ballot?
"Right now we're focusing on education," Kaushik says. "The public needs to know what these initiatives actually do. Our efforts will be focused on talking to voters."
Calls to proponents of the Costco initiative weren't immediately available for comment. I'll post more when I hear back.