SEATTLE -- Will Washington voters choose to privatize liquor sales next week? Polls show the Initiative 1183 race is too close to call. But what would change if I-1183 passes?
Photographer Don Metcalf and I rolled around the retail aisles Tuesday, talking with people on both sides of the I-1183 debate.
We found two things the "Yes on 1183" and "No on 1183" folks agree on. The first is that if the initiative passes, liquor sales will bring in slightly more money for the State of Washington than they're bringing in now. The second is that the other side is lying.
"It's a little bit dishonest and it's a little bit disingenuous," said Alex Fryer from the "No on 1183" campaign on the opposition's view. "They've worked very hard to prevent good community conversation about the public health impacts, the public safety impacts of that kind of liquor expansion in our state."
"We have never seen this unprecedented level of deception and an attempt to mislead voters," said Kathryn Stenger of "Yes on 1183," who also says, "I think the opposition needs to take their Halloween mask off because they're hiding behind 'Protect our communities,' when they're actually funded almost entirely by the big national liquor dealers."
Polls show this is a very tight race and there are still plenty of undecided voters out there. If I-1183 does pass, you won't see liquor turning up in your local grocery store until the middle of next year. The current outlets, state stores, would be shut down and their inventory auctioned off. But about 160 of those stores are run by private companies on contract with the state, and are therefore grandfathered in. They could choose to remain open and test the waters of free-market competition.
Private distribution of booze could begin in March of 2012, with sales opening by June 2012.