Costco Leads Fight To Privatize Wash. Liquor Sales
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And in Washington State today, voters are deciding whether to privatize the sale of hard liquor. Now spirits are only available through state-run or contract liquor stores. Leading the fight to end the state's monopoly is the big wholesaler Costco. From the Northwest News Network, Austin Jenkins reports.
AUSTIN JENKINS, BYLINE: The Costco-backed measure would close state stores and allow some 1,400 private retailers to get in the business. At its heart, Initiative 1183 is a deregulation fight. But turn on the TV and you'll see dueling ads featuring firefighters and nurses.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV ADS)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: 1183 is clearly designed to prevent gas stations and minimarts from selling liquor.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: 1183 will expand the use of hard liquor.
JENKINS: This is the second year Costco has gone to the ballot to end state control. The Washington-based chain has pumped a record $22 million into the Yes campaign. The No side has raised about half that, mostly from out-of-state wholesalers. Initiative watcher Todd Donovan at Western Washington University says Costco enjoys a home state advantage.
TODD DONOVAN: Yeah, I think it would be a lot harder for Wal-Mart to come in and spend $20 million and try to say, you know, trust us. Costco, they're local, they may be in a better position to do that.
JENKINS: Polls show the liquor privatization measure ahead with few undecided voters left. For NPR News, I'm Justin Jenkins in Olympia.
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