Category archives for “Washington”

State Legislative Update

March 24, 2011

As mentioned earlier this week, there has been a lot of action on the alcoholic beverage industry legislative scene over the last few weeks without even considering the direct shipping related legislation that has been on the scene in Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey (for a summary of such legislation see freethegrapes.org). Below is a look at some of the major pieces of state proposed legislation.

Georgia, SB 10 – On March 16, 2011, the Georgia Senate passed SB 10, which would allow for take-away sales of wine and beer on Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at eligible retailers. Connecticut, Indiana, and Georgia are the only three states that still have complete bans on all alcohol sales from off-premises retailers on Sundays. More frequently States ban sales of distilled spirits and/or wine on Sundays, if there is a ban at all. If the Bill passes, such alcohol sales would be determined on a local level rather than the state issued ban.

Washington, I-1157, SB 5111 – Privatization efforts are back in full swing in Washington State, which sells distilled spirits only through state run liquor stores. On March 18, 2011, Stefan Scharkansky filed Initiative 1157, the text of which is available here. The Initiative is extensive but overall, it would allow stores that currently sell beer and wine and have no record of safety violations to sell liquor as well. The bill’s author purports that Initiative 1157 is better than Initiatives 1100 (which Scharkansky helped author) and 1105, which were voted down last November, because it would require tighter control of liquor sales than the prior initiatives and also maintain tax revenues. Mr. Scharkansky is not the only one dipping his toes into the waters of Washington privatization. Tom Luce, a business consultant has floated the idea of a private-state partnership where a private company takes over the distribution piece of the liquor business and the state maintains the retail portion. All this action is on top of Senate Bill 5111, introduced by Senators Sheldon, Rockefeller, King, Hobbs, and Litzow, which we covered previously.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Privatization Fight Still Remains Strong in Washington

January 24, 2011

Although Washington State’s two privatization measures, Initiatives 1100 and 1105, were voted down in the November 2010 elections, privatization proponents have not yet given up the fight. A new bill, SB 5111, is currently presented by Washington Senators Steve Hobbs (D), Curtis King (R), Steve Litzow (R), Phil Rockefeller (D), and Tim Sheldon (D). It was introduced on January 14, 2011 and then referred to the Committee on Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection. The bill would allow voters the opportunity to once again vote on privatizing liquor sales in Washington. Currently, liquor sales are handled by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (“WSLCB”). If the bill passes, the WSLCB’s liquor assets will be sold off and all funds deposited into the general state fund; the state will, however, maintain a revenue stream from the sale of alcohol.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Copyright © 2010-2011 · All Rights Reserved ·


Alcoholic Energy Drinks Banned in Michigan and Washington

November 12, 2010

In the span of a week, both Michigan and Washington have banned alcoholic energy drinks. On November 4, 2010, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission issued an Administrative Order rescinding its approval of all alcoholic energy drinks, effectively banning them in the state of Michigan. Manufacturers have 30 days from the date of the Order to remove their products from Michigan stores. The ban covers a total of 55 drinks offered by nine different suppliers. According to supporters of the ban, the high alcohol content—around 12% for a 24-ounce can, compared to 4-5% for a 12-ounce beer—combined with flashy packaging, flavors such as grape and watermelon, low prices (around $2 to $5), and the combination of stimulants such as caffeine, taurine, and guarana, along with alcohol, make the drinks dangerous to teenagers and college-aged students. As the Commission’s news release stated, “The Commission believes the packaging is often misleading, and the products themselves can pose problems by directly appealing to a younger customer, encouraging excessive consumption, while mixing alcohol with various other chemical and herbal stimulants.”

On November 10, 2010, at the request of Governor Chris Gregoire, the Washington State Liquor Control Board approved an emergency rule banning the sale of alcoholic energy drinks. The emergency ban will remain in effect for 120 days, during which time the Liquor Control Board will work to make the ban permanent. The Washington ban was partially spurred by nine Central Washington University students who became ill after consuming alcoholic energy drinks. As Gov. Gregoire stated in the Liquor Control Board’s press release, “By taking these drinks off the shelves we are saying ‘no’ to irresponsible drinking and taking steps to prevent incidents like the one that made these college students so ill.”

Michigan and Washington are not the only states with some form of limitation on alcoholic energy drinks. Both Utah and Montana reclassified such beverages as liquor, thus restricting the locations where such items can be sold. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it would look into the health risks associated with caffeinated alcoholic beverages. The FDA has never approved caffeine as an additive to alcoholic beverages, although it has approved it as an additive to soft drinks. Beverages without FDA approval can still be lawfully marketed, but their use must be subject to a prior sanction or deemed Generally Recognized As Safe, or GRAS. Given the extensive media coverage surrounding beverages containing caffeine and alcohol, it appears likely that these products will continue to attract regulatory attention.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.


The Votes are In: Washington Remains a Control State

November 09, 2010

There was a lot of shake-up in Congress this election season, but things stay the same for Washington’s alcoholic beverage system. Washington remains one of 18 “control” states, which hold broad reign over the wholesale distribution of alcohol. Further, Washington remains one of 12 states that are involved in the retail distribution of alcohol.

Initiatives 1100 and 1105 would have privatized the state’s liquor distribution and sales system. Initiative 1100 would have made sweeping changes to Washington’s alcoholic beverage laws, not only privatizing liquor sales, but eliminating many of the state’s distribution regulations, including price controls, restrictions on volume discounts, and prohibitions against paying on credit for beer and wine sales. Initiative 1105 was less expansive. It called for a privatization of the liquor sales systems, but left most of the distribution laws regarding beer and wine intact, although it relaxed such distribution laws related to liquor.

The two campaigns were at odds with each other. Initiative 1100 was backed largely by Costco Wholesale Corp., while Initiative 1105 was backed mostly by beer and wine distributors. Unions, including the Washington State Council of Firefighters, came out against both initiatives, arguing they would result in more access to alcohol throughout the state and greater public safety concerns.

Both measures failed, though it was a close race for Initiative 1100. Initiative 1100 received a 53.21% “No” vote to 46.79% “Yes.” Initiative 1105 received a 64.51% “No” vote to 35.49% “Yes.” Despite what was surely a significant financial investment in both initiatives by their respective supporters, for the time being it’s business as usual in Washington State.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.


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