On Tuesday, October 19, The Stranger co-hosted a liquor-initiative smackdown with the lovely Washington Bus at the Crocodile. The event was fantastic. Here's what you missed: our debaters—separated into "Yes on 1100/1105" and "No on Both" camps—were funny and eloquent; the drinks were strong and cold; the crowd was mildly rabid (two women were booted from the Croc for their loud and obnoxious heckling of the "Yes" camp), and roughly 200 people got a 90-minute earful of how the initiatives would affect the small beer brewers, public safety, restaurants, liquor availability and selection, and how they'd impact state and local budgets.
Some arguments were more credible than others: "We're not anti-liquor," said Heather McClung, President of the Washington Brewers Guild and the woman behind Schooner EXACT Brewing Co, speaking for the "No" camp. "We just want responsible legislation, not measures that will either benefit big distributors or big retailers like Costco at the cost of millions to state. Why should we be forced to settle?"
Meanwhile, Ashley Bach, spokesman for I-1100, fought back arguments that privatizing liquor sales will create liquor-fueled anarchy: "The liquor control board currently has 800 employees devoted to retail and only 80 to enforcement," he said. "If we get the state out of the liquor-selling business they'll have more resources to devote to safety."
In the end, the only consensus reached was that most minors drink (debaters were all asked point-blank if they drank underage; everyone but Charla Neuman, spokeswoman for I-1105, admitted to it). So how do we know who won over the crowd? We conducted an audience entrance poll to gauge how they were likely to vote on each initiative—yes, no, or undecided. After the event, as people were leaving, we conducted an exit poll. It's obvious that two hours of arguing changed a lot of minds:
- Triple counted by apathetic monkeys for accuracy.
Congratulations to our "No" debaters, who won virgin rum-and-cokes for their victory (it's illegal in Washington state to drink while onstage): State Rep. Brendan Williams; Sarah Cherin, Government Relations Director UFCW, representing the state's liquor-store employees; Heather McClung, President of the Washington Brewer's Guild, representing 65 microbreweries; Sandeep Kaushik, Protect Our Communities (No on I-1100 and I-1105); and Marcus Charles, owner of the Crocodile. Curtsies also go to Goldy and the Washington Bus folks, who oppose both initiatives.
And now it's time for another poll! When we last polled the initiatives on Slog, "No on Both" kicked some ass. Now we've had two weeks worth of hysterical commercials to digest and one drunken debate.