Local and statewide liquor prices remain nearly 20 percent higher three months after Washington’s privatization measure took effect, and no one seems to know when — or if — they’ll come down.

In the Longview-Kelso area, the average composite price of a 750-milliliter bottle of spirits was $25.42, about 18 percent higher from May when state-run stores were last open, according to a Daily News survey this week. This month’s prices are also about 10 percent up from June, when private stores first began selling liquor.

The price increases are a direct result of the state’s 10 percent distribution and 17 percent retail fees included in Initiative 1183, which Washington voters approved by a wide margin last November. The state also collects a 20.5 percent liquor sales tax and $3.77 per liter tax. The measure took effect June 1 and increased taxes to make up for lost revenue for education, road maintenance and other public works when the state handed over liquor sales to private hands for the first time since the Prohibition Era.

This week, The Daily News surveyed prices of five brands — Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Captain Morgan rum, Skyy vodka, Tanqueray gin and Jose Cuervo tequila — sold at four grocery stores and two liquor stores in Longview. A similar survey was conducted at the Rainier Liquor Store, where the composite price was about 30 percent lower, at $19.15.

Foot traffic has risen by 20 to 30 percent and sales have run $2,000 per day higher this summer primarily from customers across the state line, Rainier store officials said. Prices are set by the state of Oregon and have not changed in three months.

“Our customers are always joking that there’s no Oregon plates in our parking lot,” said Sammy Carlson, Rainier Liquor Store assistant manager.

In Washington, prices are roughly where state officials expected after three months, but they said its too soon to forecast future prices accurately.

“We don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s too soon to tell,” said Mike Gowrylow, spokesman for the state’s Department of Revenue, which tracks liquor sales to collect taxes.

In The Daily News’ survey, prices varied from store to store, sometimes dramatically. For example, a fifth of Tanquery gin at G3 Liquors in the Triangle Center cost $29.99, the cheapest of the six stores by two or three dollars. However, a fifth of Skyy vodka at the same store was the priciest, at $24.99.

Most stores still only list the retail price, then tack on the taxes, which add $7 to $9 at the register. However, G3 and Boondox Liquor — the two Longview stores formerly run by the state — list the sales price at the register to avoid sticker shock for customers, officials at both stores said.

Wauna Khlee, G3’s manager, said the store has been mixing up its sales among different popular brands to stay competitive. With more than 1,500 brands, G3 also has a larger selection than the big-box stores, he said.

“We try to pick out key items (for sales), ones that we know are going to sell,” Khlee said.

G3 is also installing a cooler to sell beer and is expanding its selection of snacks, he said.

Boondox Liquor has also expanded beyond liquor, adding beer, wine, snacks and tobacco products, said employee Rup Brar, whose father, Dave Brar, owns the business.

Under privatization, business “went up, and it went down again,” Brar said.

Statewide, prices this July were 16.2 percent higher than they were in July last year, under the old state-run system, according to the Department of Revenue. Still, those July prices were down modestly from June, right after privatization took effect, but no one knows if the trend will continue.

Total spirts sales statewide also bounced back in July after a big slump in June, likely because bars and restaurants has built large inventories before I-1183 took effect and needed to restock, Gowrylow said.

Without making predictions, Gowrylow noted that rising sales could eventually work to bring prices down. However, he added that sales figures could also drop in coming months as the novelty of buying spirits at a grocery store wears off.

Editor's note (Sept. 14): A previous version of this story did not mention the 10 percent distribution fee and 17 percent retail fee imposed by I-1183 that also are included in liquor prices.

(29) comments

Commercial Construction Manager
Commercial Construction Manager

Geeeee... you mean that those peoples who voted for privatization of liquor sales DIDN'T see this one coming??????? WOW! I guess I was wrong when I said it wasn't rocket science to figure the end result of this one. We’re a CAPITALISTIC society people!

Joe LeTaxi
Joe LeTaxi

It's now FINALLY a capitalistic system for booze, too! That means if you think the liquor stores are ripping you off you can open a shop yourself and get rich! Want to blame it on distributors? Well, nothing is stopping you from starting your own distributorship! Great country isn't it? I don't mind paying more liquor tax because now I can buy a bottle of bourbon at Fred Meyer instead of the inconvenience of an additional stop at a store that felt like something out of 1970s Eastern Europe.

AudreyIsDeadLOL
AudreyIsDeadLOL

MUST....HAVE.....BOOZE !!!!

ILWUlosers
ILWUlosers

Its a good thing!! Keep charging them drunks more, maybe we will less of them around =)

JackTwo
JackTwo

you can bet that Oregon loves this total stupidity by the State of Washington.

DW111
DW111

Jack, I'll bet you a bottle of Daniels that Oregone will follow right behind WA when they see how much revenue WA is raking in.

Horatio Bunce
Horatio Bunce

"Local and statewide liquor prices remain nearly 20 percent higher three months after Washington’s privatization measure took effect, The price increases are a direct result of the state’s 10 percent distribution and 17 percent retail fees included in Initiative 1183" Approximately 27% in new fee/taxes and only a 20% increase in price. The state is making about 50% while the retailer is making less than 20%. We need to get out the pitchforks.

ChuckieSays
ChuckieSays

The 20.5 percent liquor sales tax and $3.77 per liter tax have been around a long time and were included in the old state store prices - they aren't new. The state’s 10 percent distribution and 17 percent retail fees were decided on by we the people. The state had nothing to do with them. To say otherwise is completely false. The state had those old taxes and a +50% markup and booze was still cheaper before. Make the stores prove they only have a 20% markup before I feel sorry for them.

DW111
DW111

Hey there Chuck, I work in the industry. Some stores aren't making 5% on booze. That's because most of them buy their product from a vendor who charges a mark up. Fred Meyer warehoused their product and can sell it for a little less, and make a decent profit, and have a much larger selection than Safeway or Wal-Mart. Whoever thought that voting for I-1183 would lower prices was smoking something they shouldn't have. Give the tax mongers in Olympia an inch, and they will take it a mile.

ChuckieSays
ChuckieSays

I know there are lots of smaller stores that didn't want this initiative to pass for that very reason. There is no money in it for them at all. Costco on the other hand... My point was that it wasn't Olympia who voted this in. We the voters did it to ourselves and it was all spelled out, if only we took the time to read.

boo
boo

Chuckie has it correct. I agree with his comment completely. This is the price a person pays when they vote "for convenience". In addition, I do not think alot of voters read the initiative before casting their vote. It might have be the COSTCO and California influence.

lon buck
lon buck

I just moved up from Sacramento, Ca and a 1.75 L of Christian Brothers Brandy was $12.95

ChuckieSays
ChuckieSays

I would rather pay $10 more for a bottle of booze then $4,000 a year in personal income tax. The government will get it's money one way or another.

Commercial Construction Manager
Commercial Construction Manager

AMEN Boo.....
But then again, what does one expect from a collection of misinformed, uneducated, and shortsighted voters? As WC Fields once said: "There is s sucker born every minute.", and the voters of Washington took this one hook line and sinker.

OldIrish
OldIrish

That's pretty much it, yes. There's so much anti-government sentiment that voters got dazzled by the word "privatize" and then tuned off their brains. What they got is essentially a government/private collaboration.

Horatio Bunce
Horatio Bunce

Yeah right, the voters changed the 2010 initiative (I-1100) to add the taxes because we didn't think we were paying enough taxes. Here is what really happened, the state and Costco negotiated the two new fee/taxes to allow the state to retain their ~$150 million profit which was going back into the general fund and the state agreed to tone down their objection to I-1183. Simple as that!

OldIrish
OldIrish

So long as Costco got what it wanted, all's well, right? :-).

DW111
DW111

My solution, drink more beer. Or is it "eat more chikin", I get them mixed up. I wonder if the poor shop owners that, in some cases forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep the existing stores open with a ton of new competition, will be able to make it work. I stop in at the one across from Freddies a couple times a week, and there ain't much going on. But his beer cave is the coldest in town!!

Cheney119er
Cheney119er

DW just stop drinking all together. I quit drinking beer (and empty calorie pop) in July and dropped 15 pounds in 3 weeks. I don't miss it one bit, it's just a waste of time, money and potential. You'd be happier, thinner and you might experience some personal growth.

DW111
DW111

Cheney, I just had my health screening last week for my insurance, past with flying colors. BMI, Cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure were all in the green. But I would expect nothing less from a progressive, dictating to others how they should live their lives. You do your thing and stay out of mine. Speaking of which, I think I'll crack open a frosty one and light up a fine cigar.

Cheney119er
Cheney119er

If you are drinking alcohol at 11 in the morning on a Tuesday, go take a good long look in the mirror. Then call a treatment center and get some help.

electriczipper
electriczipper

At least the majority here in Cow county voted the right way on the booze issue :). Sure we'll loose either way we vote in november, but how much is still on the table. Just say no to middle eastern oil, and let's drill our own, and buy it from Canada while developing more renewable energy and utilizing our natural gas. We shouldn't continue to fund the Muslim world through our dependence, and why do we send billions in aid if they have all this oil money? Please educate me on that one, please.

DW111
DW111

We send them billions to keep them dependent on the US for aid. If they are dependent on US aid they will act civilized and not kill Americans, burn down embassies and rape our news reporters i.e. Lara Logan. It's kind of like welfare to US citizens, it keeps the poor from doing drugs, drinking, breaking all laws and pretty much is the answer to all our problems. So with liberalism, if a foreign country's thugs kill our ambassador and burn down our embassy, we aren't sending them enough money. Just like welfare, if people still have starving children because they spend money on booze, cigarettes, drugs and so on, we aren't giving them enough money!! I hope that helps you zipper.

OldIrish
OldIrish

I only drink if I'm alone or with somebody. (Actually I hardly ever drink but I always like saying that expression!) (grin)

OldIrish
OldIrish

Well, as far as Egypt and Israel go, we've been giving each of them money for decades smply so they'll agree not to attack each other :-).

Cheney119er
Cheney119er

I like to tease the liquor distributors to drink responsibly; and the responsible amount of vodka to drink is NONE. I voted for this measure because I was simply tired of hearing about it, go figure, I still have to listen to the fools that drink distilled spirits whining about something or other. The best use for the garbage is for paint thinner, not ingestion.

DW111
DW111

And again, the overseeing progressive telling us all how to live our lives.

Cheney119er
Cheney119er

I'm couldn't care any less how you live. I was telling you how I improved my life. While you all are complaining about the price of something that makes your life worse. You do read this paper and see the price to society of the drugs you push. Don't you? I suppose everything has to fit your narrow worlld view. My sympathies

DW111
DW111

Cheney, people who drink and smoke and use drugs for the most part are less of a burden on society because they die at a relatively young age, therefore not using much if any social security, medicare, and other government programs. Plus, they are a fantastic source of revenue for the government from high sin taxes. If everyone lived to be a hundred years old, the government would already be broke......ah shoot, I forget we are already insolvent. Oh well, time for a beer and a smoke......

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