Spirits may run low as a result of I-1183

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 21, 2011 at 7:38 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 21 at 8:41 PM

SEATTLE -- Booze may soon be cheaper in Washington, but there may also be less selection and possibly even a shorter supply of liquor in the weeks and months ahead.

Seattle's Local 360 Cafe & Bar prides itself on using only products from with 360 miles of its Belltown neighborhood. And that includes the booze. But with the passage of Initiative 1183, the state is now selling off its liquor stockpiles and that has workers concerned.

"I think (local craft-spirits) are gonna be hard to find," said Local 360 bar manager Paul Ritums.

Come May 31, state liquor stores will close. Therefore, the state is cutting back its alcohol purchases and getting rid of 1,000 workers. Given that potent mix, even the big national brands could be in short supply.

"Along with the small, local distillers, you might not be able to find Jose Cuervos, the Jack Daniels because they don't want to be sitting on the stock come the deadline for the changeover," said Ritums.

And it isn't just what's behind the bar that could be in short supply in the coming months, but what you're able to bring home, as well.

At Fremont's brand new Mischief Distillery, workers are concerned about their ability to get their products to customers. Since the state will no longer be selling their products they have to find a way to get their liquor to market. Big distributors may not be interested in picking up a case or two of whiskey from Mischief when they can unload hundreds of bottles from big, national producers like Seagrams. Also, the Costcos and Safeways of the world may not make room for lesser known products on their shelves.

"I think it worries a lot of the distillers that are just starting because all of us don't know where it's going to lead," said Mischief owner Mike Sherlock.

Craft distilling is a blossoming industry in Washington. There are about 40 such distillers now across the state. Many worry with fewer places selling locally made products, not only will customers suffer from a poorer selection, but the businesses will as well.

"It does make the hair stand up on your neck because there's a lot of money invested here and a lot of time," said Sherlock.

The state is working on a plan to keep supplies flowing by allowing liquor producers to "buy back" whatever stock has not sold by May 31. Theoretically, wholesalers like Costco could fill the void by applying for a "distributor license" and selling to bars. At this point, though, no one has applied for such a license.

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