Home > Seattle, US, The Beer Law > Deregulation Fear? Washington Brewers Oppose Initiative 1100

Deregulation Fear? Washington Brewers Oppose Initiative 1100

the WBG is opposing Initiative 1100.

I want to take a quick moment and point to Seattle Beer News‘ latest article on Initiative 1100, the proposed bill to privatize liquor sales and deregulate alcohol sales in the State of Washington. We briefly discussed this in the past, posting an article from BreweryLaw.com.

The author at Seattle Beer News, Geoff Kaiser, wrote a think piece about the new proposition, considering the Washington Brewers Guild. The Guild recently released a presser openly opposing the proposed legislation, citing concerns that I-1100 is the greatest threat the Washington craft brewing industry has experienced in a decade.”

I first want to applaud Geoff for his very honest portrayal of the tug and pull he is experiencing on the issue. Truly, he is correct to say that there are many arguments to be made in support of, and in opposition to, Initiative 1100.

Chiefly, Washington brewers are focusing on the fear that an open marketplace allows massive beer sellers (Costco, Binnys, MillerCoors, etc.) free reign to cause disruption to the beer market in Washington.

Of course, the Guild is correct to state that passage of deregulation opens up the market and can cause disruption. But, as an open market fan, you certainly hope that opens opportunities to all people and businesses. The key in deregulation is to find your niche, become innovative and be more efficient. You have to beat the big guys – and Washington brewers can do that!

Anyways, we are not going to tell anyone how to vote. But, please read the Brewers Guild position, because you should see both the good and the bad of I-1100 before you decide to vote. Brewers know the business and their opinion should resonate well in the beer community. But, fear can be blinding.

  1. August 3, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Beerblotter – Thanks for continuing the debate and encouraging people to think. We must strive to elevate the conversation above “I wanna buy tequila at Safeway!” There is so much more involved.

    As far as fear is concerned, for better or worse, it is an oft used weapon in any political battle. While it is highly unlikely that I fully understand all of the nuances of this (these) complex initiative(s), I believe there are a couple of basic points people should consider in order to arrive at an informed opinion.

    1) Show me the money! At this point in time, I think the good citizens of Washington understand that it is expensive to bring an initiative to ballot. All initiatives have “backers.” Where did the money come from to get I-1100 and I-1105 onto the ballot? Given the fact that these regulations will be changed, presumably to benefit something or someone, it seems reasonable to ask who is backing these initiatives. Maybe it will influence your position, maybe not.

    2) What is the role of the existing tied-house rules in the market? Do those rules play a role in keeping the market free or do they constrict market opportunity? It seems there are differing opinions on this. Many people seem to think that the sole function of tied-house rules is to prevent Budweiser from “owning” the Latona Pub. As if! That kind of ownership, or tying, is just one aspect of the tied-house rules. The name is kinda misleading. (Tied-house regs, in one form or another, are a fact of life virtually everywhere in the United States. They are not unique to Washington.)

    If you know where the money is coming from and you understand the role of the existing tied house laws, then you are equipped to make an informed decision. (Unless you want to start thinking about the revenue and tax implications. Ugh! Then you got more work to do. Very messy.)

    The Washington Brewers Guild is a small trade organization operating on a shoestring budget. They volunteer their time and do the best they can to formulate a consensus opinion among members with a variety of positions on any given issue. The Guild fights in a very expensive political arena for the health of their small businesses. In this case, as usual for the Guild, it is a David versus Goliath battle. I hope everyone will forgive them if, for the first volley, they loaded their slingshot with fear.

  2. August 3, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Kendall –

    Your last paragraph resonates strongly. I completely agree with you that its important not to slander the organization which is comprised of our dearest brewers. In fact, my article was originally more opinionated, but I feel that they deserve to be heard and there opinion provides a good platform from which to cynically look at the new initiative.

    The two points that you raised are worthy of discussion. I think by now, most people know that Costco put up a massive amount of the funding behind Initiative 1100. Is it self-serving? You’re damn right. But that does not mean that its wrong. Fighting excess regulation and demanding an open market are not sadistic goals of big business. They really should be the goals of every business. It increases access, provides larger markets, offers new buyers, and demands innovation.

    The tied-house rules, and their effect, have been so ridiculously blown out of proportion. If you are concerned with Washington brewers, the tied-house rules are almost non-existent. Brewers enjoy direct relationships with consumers in Washington, and have success with it.

    The reasons for tied-house rules were political corruption, proliferation of saloons, increase in alcohol consumption, and irresponsible ownership of retail outlets. They wanted to stop powerful brewers and help small retailers. Well now, its the opposite. Retailers & distributors run the place and there are 1000s of brewers that rely on this small handful of retailers to get their product out on the market.

    These limitations are part of the reason that beer producers in the state cannot get their product outside it, and why consumers in Washington cannot access a bounty of products. Less regulation means less restraint and more access. Washington brewers might have to compete, but they can grow with it. California grew with it, and brewers enjoyed more consumers, more markets, and more production.

    I know that Geoff Kaiser (Seattle Beer News) has been concerned with the death of small bottle shops. Really, its up to those shops to continue to work with area brewers to provide the best product. Many of the large beverage outlets cannot access small production items because they don’t buy at small volume. On top of that – they aren’t cheaper! Ask anyone. Their overhead is massive in comparison. I have little doubt that consumers will cease to support their local shops.

    That all being said – The Guild probably came down with the decision that makes most sense for them: Don’t upset progress. Essentially, this is their message. They are growing and doing well. The Initiative comes with risks, and whether those risks are good or bad is of little concern because they are risks.

    I really appreciate the discussion, Kendall. Thanks for the comment.

    Doug @ BB.com

  3. August 3, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    No problem, just trying to help you make your point that everyone should formulate their own opinion based on their own interpretation of the facts.

  1. August 26, 2010 at 3:36 pm
  2. August 27, 2010 at 10:35 am
  3. August 31, 2010 at 9:54 am

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