Issue 1. Loss of Uniform Pricing. One element that is left over from the immediate post-prohibition era is uniform pricing. What this means is, a supplier (e.g. Iron Horse Brewery, ABC Distributing) must sell a unit of iron horse beer to every retail establishment for the same price. That’s right, Joe’s Bar pays the same price as Global Conglomerate Beer Warehouser Club for a keg or bottle of Irish Death (this statute applies to all alcohol). The effect here is two positives for the little guy. Joe’s Bar has at least a snowball’s chance in an equatorial region of maintaining its business because it works on the exact same alcohol margins. Yay Joe! (Joe’s Bar is still at a disadvantage because of the free stuff that is technically illegal to get from alcohol suppliers that the big groups get despite the laws). The other positive is the effect of best beer wins. Since pricing must be consistent across customers, producers set prices at sustainable levels.
“The current system encourages competition based on the merits of the beer and the brand rather than the depth of discount or value-added practices (free shit). These protections have strengthened the beer ecosystem by putting small breweries and small retailers on the same level as the big producers and retail chains.” (footnote 1) There are no price wars (not entirely, but it plays out much differently than if there were no uniform pricing) for retailer business, so price being equal, retailers take on the beers that consumers want and that sell the best. It is my honest, heartfelt belief that uniform pricing is one of the largest factors contributing to the birth and growth of the craft beer industry in Washington state. With the passage of I-1183, suppliers would be able to discount as they see fit, or in the case of Joe’s bar, not so much, since its buying power is minimal. Conversely, Global Conglomerate Beer Warehouser could come to Iron Horse Brewery and say, “we believe that your product belongs on our shelves, so long as it is 20% less than you charge Joe’s Bar or the Corner Store”. What does a small brewery do? Sell to the big retailer for little to no profit, or perhaps a loss, so they can remain relevant to the consumer? Or should the small brewery forgo the added sales volume necessary to carve out a greater share for craft beer and the future of its own operations? You, the voter, get to determine the future landscape of the brewing industry.
With the pasage of I-1183 it will be legal to buy wine in massive quanitities from any winery, from any state at the price a business might get if it were buying, say, 10 semi loads to store in their 400,000 square foot central warehouse to distribute to their 180 retail outlets. Unless of course you don’t have a warehouse, then sorry for you. You will be buying along with Joe’s bar at the prices that the little guy gets. Now that you have this higher cost, but the same item, what do you do? You sell it at an unsustainable margin, or you don’t sell it at all. Both of those options provide an inadequate profit to continually operate your business, and the next thing you know you’ve got your 9 year old working behind the counter, Child Protective Services comes in and hauls them away and you get carted off to jail and the one employee you have loses their job because your store closes. So much for creating jobs. See how much this matters?
Issue 4. Taxpayers are Getting a Bad Deal.
I have no aversion to privatizing liquor sales. In fact, it makes a lot of sense – so much so that there have been a grand total of zero initiatives filed by citizens to privatize liquor sales. Sorry for the sarcasm (sort of). I believe liquor sales should be privatized, but not for the benefit of large corporations. Liquor sale’s privatization should benefit liquor producers, the state, and most of all consumers. You want liquor in Babies R Us? Fine, just get the initiative written by a citizen, not a corporation. (I don’t hate corporations necessarily, Iron Horse Brewery is a corporation in fact, s-corp to be exact, although we are thinking about changing to c-corp so we can have different classes of stock and wage class warfare internally, between the four of us.) If we get the state out of the liqour business, let’s make damn sure we sell the assets for a fair market value. Some other state did (I can’t remember which one, someone help me out on this) and made a lot of money. We’ve surely invested plenty, we should get a return on our collective investment in the state liquor stores.
Issue 5. Punishment of Suppliers for Distributor Violations.
This is a weird addition, but with the passage of I-1183 Iron Horse Brewery could have our licensed privileges revoked in a market because of illegal activity of our distributor with our product, whether we know it or not. What?! i don’t know where the hell that came from, but that would be a major blow if suddenly we couldn’t sell beer in Megalopolis because our distributor gave away a free keg of our beer to Global Conglomerate Beer Warehouser Club without us knowing or consenting. (footnote 2)
I have probably really agitated many of you and I hope, as did not occur with my last post, that you read me the riot act. I am sure some of my information is less than perfectly defensible and I hope you illuminate that which is not. From my position, this initiative has some pretty detrimental possibilities for my chosen profession and the 13 other people that have decided to make Iron Horse Brewery part of their working lives. This is what matters to me. From what I see, I-1183 has little to offer in benefit to citizens that couldn’t be accomplished with simply privatizing the liqour stores and not totally upending the foundation on which our current alcohol marketplace has been built. More importantly, vote yes, vote no, hate me, love me, but please, oh please, do not cast a vote without being fully informed of the true ramifications and intent of this proposal. Simplified television advertisements are not telling you the entire story.
Hugs and Kisses,