Oregon Supreme Court Clears Way for Referendum on Private Liquor Sales 

  • Idaho State Liquor Division

When the state of Washington moved to privatize liquor sales in the summer of 2012, more than a few observers thought the debate over private vs. public liquor sales would make its way to the Idaho Statehouse. A February 2013 edition of City Club of Boise even featured robust dialogue between Idaho State Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson and Gloria Totoricagüena, a lobbyist for the Northwest Grocers Association.

"Captain Morgan is not Captain Crunch," said Anderson. "You don't go to a toilet paper or toothpaste lounge at the end of the day to relax with your coworkers." 

Totoricagüena pushed back, arguing, "I don't believe the government should determine liquor brands, where a store should be placed, operating hours or my shopping choices."

Now, it appears the issue of private liquor sales will be put before Oregon voters as early as November.

The Associated Press reports the state Supreme Court has cleared the way for a potential ballot measure on privatizing liquor sales in Oregon. Currently, Oregon is similar to Idaho in that hard liquor by the bottle can only be purchased in state-chartered stores. Privatization advocates say they're already securing petition signatures to make to the November ballot. Proponents of private sales will need 88,000 signatures by July.

Meanwhile, Anderson couldn't be happier when border states go private with their liquor sales, As an example, he points to the tiny town of State Line, Idaho—population about 40—which has the largest and most successful liquor store in the Gem State. Simply put, Idaho's state-controlled prices are lower than the private retailers across the Washington border, leading Washington residents to travel to Idaho in order to stock their liquor cabinets. The State Line liquor store had sales of nearly $6 million in 2014.
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