Liquor store auction a welcome windfall for state coffers
Washington state has come into a windfall from its auction of 167 state liquor store rights, thanks to the voters' smart embrace of liquor store privatization in Initiative 1183.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE state of Washington rightfully is proclaiming a baby windfall from its 45-day liquor store auction that netted nearly $31 million. Some of that will be shared with cities and counties, and the rest goes to the state general fund, plumping up a worrisome reserve.
At issue is the future of 167 state-operated liquor stores whose rights were up for grabs in an online auction.
State officials had no idea what to expect — there was idle talk of maybe $4 million to $15 million — so they did not count on a dollar figure from the sales of these rights.
The auction was the result of passage of Initiative 1183, privatizing liquor sales in the state.
There are other categories of liquor stores, but the ones in this batch were run by the state.
The 121 successful bidders were seeking exclusive rights to apply for liquor licenses at stores in their current location, although they have an option to relocate within a mile of the existing store.
Winners have other steps to take, including applying for liquor licenses, nailing down lease agreements and purchasing inventory from the state or distributors.
The state portion of these proceeds will go to the savings account, which state lawmakers left at an uncomfortably low $319 million.
The initiative was a wise call by voters, who recognized that it no longer made sense for the state to be in the liquor business. Such involvement was anachronistic. Selling liquor simply is not a core function of government.
This small but important win for government's coffers shows how lucrative the liquor business was for the state.