Grocers drop liquor privatization plan to fight corporate tax measure

Source: Paris Achen and Hillary Borrud, Portland Tribune, April 27, 2016

A grocers coalition says it plans to withdraw an initiative to privatize liquor sales in Oregon so the group can focus resources on defeating a corporate sales tax proposed for the November ballot. Oregonians for Competition, led by the Northwest Grocery Association and Distilled Spirits Council, suspended Wednesday, April 27, collection of signatures in support of Initiative Petition 71. The measure would end state sale and distribution of distilled spirits and allow grocery stores to sell the products alongside beer and wine. … The Distilled Spirits Council does not plan to participate in the campaign against the corporate sales tax measure but will look for a way to move forward its effort to allow the sale of distilled spirits in grocery stores, said Eric Reller of the Distilled Spirits Council. McCormick said the grocers coalition also would continue to advocate for allowing sale of distilled spirits in grocery stores in the next 12 months.


Court approves ballot title for liquor privatization in Oregon
Source: Kristena Hansen, KATU2, March 24, 2016

The state Supreme Court on Thursday approved the title language of a November ballot proposal that would allow grocery stores to stock their shelves with distilled liquor across Oregon, where there are currently more places to buy legal recreational marijuana than a bottle of Jack Daniels. Grocers behind the measure now have the go-ahead to begin gathering 88,100-plus required signatures by July, the final step to put Initiative 71, dubbed Oregonians for Competition, before voters this fall. … Oregonians Against the Takeover – a coalition formed by the Associated Liquor Stores of Oregon, Oregon Beer & Wine Distributors Association and East Bend Liquor, among a handful of others – argues liquor costs would soar as they have in Washington state, which privatized in 2011 and now boasts among the highest prices in the country.

Battle Over OLCC Privatization Unites Unlikely Allies—Labor Union and Beer Distributors
Source: Nigel Jaquiss, Willamette Week, December 29, 2015

Yet today, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees contributed $10,000 to Beverage PAC, a private-sector political action committee funded by beer and wine distributors. Why? The distributors oppose a 2016 ballot measure that would privatize the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and dismantle the tightly controlled alcoholic beverage business, threatening the lucrative niche distributors occupy. As for AFSCME, it represents the workers employed at the OLCC’s mammoth Milwaukie warehouse, where virtually every bottle of booze consumed in the state is shipped before being sent to retail locations. The union’s money will help underwrite polling on the OLCC.

Bend distillers say privatizing liquor would cripple business
Source: Joseph Ditzler, The Bulletin, November 15, 2015

Talking while he worked, Hale said the proposed ballot initiative filed Oct. 28 by a coalition of grocers seeking to privatize liquor sales in Oregon is a worrisome development. Cascade Alchemy, a 3-year-old startup, ships its six varieties of bottled spirits to about 100 liquor stores in Oregon. The stores, all run by contractors under a state-controlled system, afford small distillers a level, transparent playing field in a marketplace dominated by big labels, Hale and other distillers said. The grocers’ initiative would end the role played by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission as a warehouser, distributor and market regulator, but it would cripple small distillers and set back even those with several years experience, local distillers said. … Along with state involvement in selling liquor, it would end the revenue stream the OLCC collects from those sales. The six-page initiative says nothing about replacing that revenue, other than that sales of state properties and savings on future spending should go toward “enhancing public safety and preventing the sale of distilled liquor to minors.” …

Oregon grocers once again seek liquor privatization with proposed ballot measure
Source: Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian, October 28, 2015

Oregon’s grocery industry on Wednesday launched a new effort to grab a share of the state’s lucrative liquor market by privatizing sales of these alcoholic beverages. The industry filed a proposed initiative for the 2016 ballot that would end Oregon’s system of allowing sales only through a limited number of state-licensed stores overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. … One of their major political issues was that Washington voters privatized liquor sales starting in June of 2012, and studies show it has tended to increase — not lower — prices.  In large part, that’s because the privatization initiative included taxes aimed at producing as much revenue as the state made when it acted as the state’s sole liquor retailer. … Sponsors will need to collect 88,184 valid signatures by next July to qualify for the general election ballot in November of 2016.

Group files measure to privatize liquor sales
Source: Gordon Friedman, Statesman Journal, October 28, 2015

Oregonians for Competition filed the measure Tuesday. The group will need more than 80,000 signatures to qualify a ballot measure for the November 2016 election. The state of Oregon regulates the price, marketing, distribution and sale of liquor through the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. If passed, the ballot measure would privatize liquor sales in Oregon. The measure would ban liquor sales at gas stations. … Oregonians for Competition has attempted in previous election years to pass similar measures. PACs run by Oregonians for Competition have spent millions of dollars to promote liquor privatization measures. According to campaign finance records from the Secretary of State’s office, funding for those efforts came primarily from grocery stores and associations, including hundreds of thousands of dollars from Safeway, Fred Meyer and the Distilled Spirits Council.

Fred Meyer donates $139,000 more to failed liquor privatization initiative: Oregon campaign finance
Source: Yuxing Zheng, Oregonian, June 23, 2014

The initiative campaign for liquor privatization is dead this year, but Fred Meyer still donated $138,524 to the effort on June 18. Campaign organizers pulled the plug June 4 after spending about $2.5 million on two possible initiatives. Organizers had faced the tough task of gathering signatures on a tight turnaround before the July 3 deadline after spending months wrangling over the ballot wording in court….

Abandoned liquor privatization campaign spent about $2.5 million this year
Source: Katherine Driessen, Oregonian, June 6, 2014

When liquor privatization backers called off their ballot initiatives this week, it wasn’t for lack of spending. This year, petition committees associated with the campaign recorded about $2.5 million in cash expenditures, on everything from signature gathering efforts to inter-campaign contributions. That includes a $200,000 check on Monday — just two days before backers dropped the initiatives — to Silver Bullet, a signature gathering firm hired to help the group meet an ambitious July 3 deadline.

Liquor privatization supporters drop 2014 ballot initiatives as signature deadline approaches
Source: Katherine Driessen, Oregonian, June 4, 2014

Liquor privatization supporters have dropped initiatives to put a measure on the November 2014 ballot to privatize sales and allow big Oregon grocery chains to stock liquor on their shelves. The announcement Wednesday came after months of legal debate over the ballot wording of two possible initiatives. While one was stuck before the Oregon Supreme Court, supporters had recently gotten the nod to start gathering signatures on a second, less preferred initiative. Just last week, supporters said they would move forward with that initiative. But privatization backers, who call themselves Oregonians for Competition, ultimately decided the first initiative was the strongest and the turnaround too tight to gather enough signatures for that one, with a July 3 deadline looming….

Oregon liquor prices not expected to change if privatized
Source: Associated Press, January 12, 2014

Oregon state officials say liquor prices are not likely to change if the system is privatized, as has been proposed in a ballot initiative.Oregon consumers would likely pay the same prices for alcohol because the fees are not going to change, The Statesman Journal reported Sunday. That money collected by the state of Oregon goes to cities, counties and the state general fund, bringing in $396.7 million during the 2011-2013 biennium. Liquor sales are the third biggest revenue generator for Oregon.If a ballot initiative qualifies for the November election, the only impact to consumers would be alcohol sales in grocery stores. Grocers would likely profit but the state would be forced out of the business….

Ore. grocery stores aim to privatize liquor sales
Source: Nigel Duara, Associated Press, December 27, 2013

A collection of grocery store interests is leading a push to drive government out of the liquor business, a move Oregon’s liquor commission says would threaten the state’s financial stability by delaying revenue collection. Battle lines are forming along a traditional labor-business divide, with a twist. Large private industry sees a pot of money guarded by an outmoded post-Prohibition-era bureaucracy; public-sector unions are concerned privatization would eliminate about 100 government jobs. Liquor wholesale distributors who stand to lose money are also likely to oppose privatization. But another group could join the fray: Oregon’s craft distillers. At least one of these small businesses saw its revenues tank when neighboring Washington state privatized liquor on a grocery store-funded ballot measure last year….

Oregon grocers want to sell liquor, file privatization measure
Source: Jonathan J. Cooper, Associated Press, December 16, 2013

A group led by Oregon grocery stores filed initial paperwork Monday that could lead to a ballot measure asking voters whether to privatize liquor sales. The organization called Oregonians for Competition said in a statement that it’s filed five proposed initiatives and will select one to move forward with. The initiatives differ in details, but all would allow liquor sales in stores that already sell beer and wine and are at least 10,000 square feet. Existing liquor stores would be allowed to stay open, and some smaller shops like wine specialty stores would be able to sell liquor. …

Oregon liquor agency faces troubling questions, inside and out
Source: Harry Esteve, Oregonian, March 6, 2013

…The internal struggles come at a time when the OLCC is under a higher level of scrutiny from state lawmakers and city of Portland officials, who think the agency has been less than responsive to complaints about problem bars. There’s also an underlying worry about the possibility of a ballot measure to privatize liquor sales, as happened last year in Washington. Currently, the OLCC is the third biggest revenue source for the state, behind income taxes and the Oregon Lottery. Over the past two years, profits from liquor sales sent $370 million into the state’s general fund, to cities and counties, and to drug and alcohol abuse programs. …

Liquor privatization issue still percolating in Oregon
Source: Jeff Mapes, Oregonian, January 24, 2013

After the bumpy start for Washington’s liquor privatization law last year — which included price hikes that led some consumers fleeing to stores across the border — you might think the issue is off the table in Oregon. It doesn’t appear to be the case. Both sides are preparing for a potential battle here. Oregon beer and wine distributors, which generally like Oregon’s current state-run system, recently spent $16,000 on a poll exploring public attitudes toward privatization. And the Northwest Grocery Association, which pushed privatization in Washington, is working on its own survey on public attitudes toward ending the state’s monopoly on retail liquor sales. …