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Sat., May 21, 2011, 12:35 p.m.

Liquor initiative: Costco orders another round

OLYMPIA -- As expected, a new proposal to privatize the liquor system in Washington was filed late Friday.

Supporters include Costco, Northwest Grocery Association and the Washington Restaurant Association for a proposal that would let retailers with at least 10,000 square feet obtain liquor licenses and pay 17 percent of their gross revenues to the state. Businesses that get distribution licenses would pay 10 percent of gross the first two years and 5 percent every year after that.

The state would auction off its distribution warehouse and stores. Supporters say they want to inject competition into the liquor biz. They think it's a better plan than the two that voters turned down last year.

They expect to be seeking signatures as soon as wording is checked and petitions are printed, in about a month. The deadline is early July and ordinarily that wouldn't be enough to get all the signatures needed, but last year Costco set up tables at its warehouse stores and grabbed a boatload of signatures fairly quickly.

The state might also order a study on whether it makes economic sense to sell or lease its wholesale liquor distribution system -- if a bill on that topic can make it through the Legislature.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981. He is currently the political reporter and state government reporter in the newspaper's Olympia bureau office.

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