Washington Wine Lovers: Vote “Yes” on I-1100

By John ~ October 22nd, 2010.

A month ago, I wrote a post analyzing Washington Ballot Initiatives I-1100 and I-1105 and concluded by saying that I was leaning toward a “yes” vote on I-1100 and a “no” vote on I-1105. Since then, I have been continuing to study the issues and have engaged in discussion with a number of knowledgeable persons about the pros and cons of each. Now that I have received my ballot, it’s time to make a decision. Today, I am recommending that all Washington wine lovers vote “Yes” on I-1100. And, vote “No” on I-1105.

While I am not a big fan of the initiatives process, and I certainly don’t want to do anything to hurt the wine business, the politicians here in Washington State have had almost 80 years to straighten out our terrible, dysfunctional, intellectually dishonest, state-controlled liquor monopoly through legislation and have done nothing meaningful. That’s why we have these initiatives, and that’s why I-1100 deserves your vote. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best chance we’ve ever had to correct this mess. It can always be tweaked after we see how it works.

What disappoints me the most about the campaign against I-1100 (and I-1105, for that matter) is the disingenuous rhetoric about health and public safety. California has private liquor sales rather than a state-controlled system, and yet California has fewer drunk-driving deaths per-capita than we have in Washington State. The beer and wine wholesalers who are funding the negative ads don’t want us to stop drinking or to drink less. They simply want to ensure that they continue to get their cut of virtually every bottle sold in Washington.

The bottom line: I-1100 is pro-consumer. Since Wine Peeps is a consumer-focused wine blog, I am encouraging you, the consumer, to support I-1100. Sure, Costco is the main corporate supporter of I-1100, and no one is hiding that fact. Costco wants to buy wine without a government-mandated middleman and price controls, so they can offer wine at lower prices to you and me. That, my friends, is the free enterprise system. Join me in voting “Yes” on I-1100.

Filed under: American Wine, Miscellaneous, Washington State Wine

Reader's Comments

  1. steve michener | October 23rd, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I’m afraid, as an owner of a small winery that I have to disagree with you. I agree that the system is broken but I-1100 breaks down a lot of laws that even the playing field for small wineries. We could pass a bill that gets the state out of the liquor business without making it harder on the little guys in the wine and beer business. If this bill passes then a lot of the choices you have in your local supermarket/wine shop are going to go away. Likely, the great wine departments of the QFCs (where they exist today) will be filled with more hard liquor and Ch. Ste. Michelle wines since they will now be able to offer big discounts in exchange for shelf space. Most retailers will not be able to afford to sell wines from small producers anymore.
    As a consumer I’m all for eliminating the taxes and mark-ups of the state system but as a small business owner I think the bill as it is written gives large distributors and wineries too much of an advantage.
    Steve Michener
    Trio Vintners
    Walla Walla , WA

  2. Michael | October 23rd, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    Great comment Mr. Michener and when one digs deeper into the repercussions of the passage of I-1100 one finds that the state becomes a free for all in terms of distribution and wholesaling of spirits and wine. Imagine Costco licking it’s chops at the thought of being able to sell to other retailers, bars, and restaurants. The 3 tiered system remains, only this time it isn’t the state, it is the company “that just wants to protect the comsumer”. If you own a retail beer and wine license for a grand you can add spirits (provided you have not shown a penchant to sell to minors) but that doesn’t level the playing field when the big boys can get the volume discounts and then sell to the little fish. What I-1100 does is eliminate a great deal of tax collected by the state in a time where budgets at city, county and state levels cannot afford to see more revenue loss. I am not saying that the system doesn’t need correcting, but I am saying that this is the wrong time to eliminate it under the guise of “consumer protection”. I am also saying that the small production winery has no consideration in these offerings and if you’re Ste. Michelle, you too are licking your chops due to the immediate exporter status gained if 1105 passes. With either initiative, 1100 or 1105, the consumer and the small producer will be the loser with these initiatives.

  3. John | October 23rd, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Steve and Michael,
    Thanks for your comments. Obviously, I don’t share your fears about harm to the small winery owner, or I wouldn’t be supporting I-1100. And neither do many of the small winery owners that I’ve visited with on this. There seem to be quite a few winery owners on both sides of the fence. As I said in my post, I-1100 is not perfect, and it’s a shame that Costco had to do what the legislature would not do; but it’s a great step in the right direction, and if it not passed the legislature will continue to do nothing just as it has for the past 80 years. I believe I-1100 is much better than what we have now, and passing it will force the legislature to get more involved and tweak it as necessary in the future. I’ve lived and worked in non-monopoly states, and I didn’t see choices limited at all. In fact, I saw the wines of many more small wineries in stores and shops than you see in Washington today, and at better prices for the most part.
    (I won’t address your concerns about I-1105, Michael, because I don’t support it either.)

  4. steve | October 24th, 2010 at 7:50 am

    John–here is a much more articulate argument than mine against 1100.
    The lobbyists who wrote the bill want you to believe it is pro consumer but it is just pro-big liquor. I appreciate the free market but it is just like the Citizens United decision–the ones with the most money have the most free speech.
    Denise and I were both for the bill as consumers before we did a little digging. Let’s get the state out of the liquor business and then slowly, intelligently, remove some of the more arcane regulations with consumer and industry input. We just can’t settle for a flawed bill for the sake of expediency

  5. John | October 24th, 2010 at 8:50 am

    I had seen that article and it makes some good points, but I believe the “fear” factors are being promoted by the wholesalers and their lobbyists for selfish reasons. For every winemaker against I-1100 I find another in favor. I think it really comes down to whether you are a pro-consumer, free market advocate or not. I see I-1100 as win/win for both consumers and wineries, because if it passes specialty wine shops and big box marts would be able to buy direct from wineries and carry just about any wine their customers would request. And it gives wineries a whole new avenue to pursue with their direct marketing programs.
    It would be ideal if we could get the state out of the liquor business and then make other changes, but that won’t happen. If this initiative doesn’t pass, nothing will change for another 80 yrs…and that’s not good for you and Denise nor me as a consumer.

  6. steve michener | October 24th, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I see your point and I’m probably more of a ‘regulate and tax’ kind of guy (having been raised in the socialist republics of Massachusetts and California). I do support the free market, obviously as a capitalist businessman, but why make it easier for large wineries to win the shelf space game? You do know, however, that we can already sell direct to any store we want to in the State of Washington? My fear is that when we go to Super One here in town they are going to be able to ask for discounts in return for shelf space, discounts that Precept Brands can afford but I can’t. The upshot of that is that Trio may disappear from the shelves in favor of Post and Pine.
    One other major change will be that, instead of getting the check when we drop off the wine, we may have to wait 90 days to get paid, a lifetime for a small biz.
    Probably what is going to happen is that both competing bills will pass and then the legislature will have to actually do some work to sort it all out.
    Thanks for raising this point on the blog.

  7. John | October 24th, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks for continuing the dialogue. It won’t be long until we see how this sorts out.

  8. Raja | April 7th, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    It’s nice to see people engaging in intelligent dialogue on a worthy topic. There’s not much quality information available online, especially on such a worthwhile topic. Thanks!!