Once again Costco is on the warpath to privatize liquor sales in Washington State less than a year after their last (and not first) failed attempt. As reported in The Stranger's own news-heavy pages, this time Costco has a plan that just might work, having ostensibly "solved" many of the issues that caused voters, Unions and even the beer producer's lobby to balk last time around.
The Stranger is no stranger to pro-privatization agitation. They are apparently so bent on privatization of liquor that they will come up with any reason to argue against the WSLCB. Last December David Frizelle wrote an article which rightly berated WSLCB enforcement officers for allegedly discriminating against gay bars in their "enforcement". He further pointed out that during the snowstorm in November, a number of WSLCB stores failed to open. Again both legitimate complaints, but hardly grounds for privatization.
For some reason Frizelle assumes that privately owned stores that sold liquor would adhere strictly to their hours and that the people enforcing legal liquor sales in a privatized world would be entirely unbiased and fair. It's a stretch at best Dave. Secondly, if Frizelle wanted booze that bad during the snowstorm, why not go to a bar, or did he forget what the first part of his rant was about? If you need to get drunk at home that bad, buy some beer or wine prom a private retailer.
It seems clear that Frizelle's and The Stranger's insistence on buying hard liquor on a whim is based more on personal convenience and a failure to plan than any bizarre sense of fairness.
But now, as Costco revs up another campaign, The Stranger is changing it's tune, a little bit. Columnist Cienna Madrid points out quite commendably that if SB 5942 passes it will essentially be a handout to the major grogery retailers like QFC, Safeway and yes Costco. Some smaller stores like one that I am familiar with, simply do not have the space to add liquor. What Madrid does however is to use entirely misleading language to undermine her anti-corporate message with pro-privatization rhetoric. Excuse me if I'm wrong, but I'll throw out a wild guess that Ms. Madrid is too young and American to have experienced East Berlin (as am I). But the name does conjure an image doesn't it. Furthermore, the majority of WSLCB stores don't close, as they allegedly did in the DDR at 6:00pm, but at 8 or 9 by which time any serious drinker should have already engaged. Comparisons to Prohibition (as Costco's SVP is quoted in Madrid's article) are just ludicrous. Prohibition meant none at all, ever.
Again, while Madrid argues against corporatization, she still supports privatization.
The usual arguments against loss of State revenue and increased availability to underage drinkers aside, there are some things which a supposedly liberal paper like The Stranger ought to consider before advocating privatization.
The reason Unions are pushing back against privatization is not because they want to protect high paid jobs. WSLCB jobs are not highly paid I assure you. These unionized jobs, with health care and "benefits", both of which The Stranger has expressed support, would, in the event of privatization go to non-unionized, that is "at-will" employees (including Costco), or in the best case scenario to unionized grocery workers at national retail chains notorious for worker harassment and intimidation.
So again, it appears that The Stranger's advocacy for alcohol privatization is based on a desire for personal convenience rather than any serious consideration of the implications. If the later were true the use of provocative and ultimately misleading language wouldn't be necessary. An easier solution seems plausible. If the State doesn't want to give up control of liquor, but the public wants more access a compromise must be reached. The Seattle Police have to go through a cultural diversity course, if WSLCB enforcement officers appear to be discriminating they should do the same. Officers who continue to discriminate should be discharged. The Stranger has advocated this for the SPD, why not here? Second, why not extend WSLCB store hours?
I'm sure there are arguments against both of these, primarily from the notoriously recalcitrant WSLCB, resistance to change tends to ossify in any institution, but there is no reason other than stubbornness that a compromise can't be reached. And it must if anyone but Corporate Capital is to win. The Stranger and other papers of similarly objective content could get behind positive WSLCB reforms, the State wouldn't have to lose it's liquor revenue and workers wouldn't have to be trampled under the Corporate foot yet again.