Modernize WA…Is Initiative 1100 good for the consumer or not?

Initiative 1100 aims to get Washington State out of the business of selling liquor. Is this a good thing or bad?

Taken from the front page of the Initiative website:
The people of Washington State desire that the Liquor Control Board focus on its core mission of education and enforcement to protect the health, welfare and safety of the citizens.

In order to strengthen the agency to more effectively educate the public, combat abuse, collect tax revenue and enforce state liquor laws, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will stop selling liquor and end its Prohibition-era monopoly on selling distilled spirits. The state will license the sale of distilled spirits to strictly regulated vendors who are already proven to be responsible sellers of beer and wine.

This initiative will improve regulations to prevent abusive and underage drinking, enforce licensing regulations and collect taxes for the State’s general fund.

The expected benefits by the initiatives supporters are to:
1) Create jobs in the private sector
2) Increase revenue for essential state services
3) Focus the Liquor Control Board on enforcing the laws and reducing alcohol abuse.
4) Consumers will see lower prices and wider selection
5) The state’s mark-up on spirits is eliminated
6) Legislature retains the right to tax liquor
7) Repeals the “Three-Tier System”, which grants monopoly privileges to middlemen, at the detriment of consumers

You can find the complete initiative here.

What is your opinion on the topic? I’d love to hear your comments.

For my initial impressions, as I have only skimmed through the document, I have several comments about this bill. I can see some benefits for some of the general population, but what about specialty bars or enthusiasts like myself? Lets briefly look at some of the points.

1) Create jobs in the private sector
Sure I can see that, but to be fair, anyone can apply for those jobs now, and you are not gaining jobs overall, just swapping one employed person for another.

2) Increase revenue for essential state services
Great, but how much money the state makes is of little consequence to me since all they do is toss it down the drain. It doesn’t really help me get products I want.

3) Focus the Liquor Control Board on enforcing the laws and reducing alcohol abuse.
I’m pretty sure that everyone already knows about the laws, and the dangers of alcohol abuse. They just choose to ignore it anyways, so all I see is money being thrown down the drain.

4) Consumers will see lower prices and wider selection
This is the one that I have the most trouble with, especially in light of topic #5. If the liquor market is opened up to the private sector, Costco (one of the primary supporters of the bill) will be getting into the liquor market. Big chain grocers, Walmart, Target, all of the big players are going to want a piece of the pie. That’s great for them, but their bottom line is profit, which means buying limited brands in quantity to get the most money. That doesn’t work for me. Out of the four state liquor stores in my small town, they carry hundreds of products and I already cannot get some things I want. You can’t tell me that these big stores are suddenly going to find thousands of feet of retail space to carry a “wider selection”. Lets be serious, Costco only carries about 5 brands of beer now. If I have to drive to another metro area, I’m no better than the current system. At least now I can find out exactly what stores have the products I want.
So the solution is specialty stores. Well, I’m not an economics major so I could be out to lunch, but we used to have a beer shop in town, and it went under because it was not economically feasible to survive on specialty products. And with prices not being fixed, these specialty stores have a disadvantage in the popular items because the big boys are buying in higher quantity and selling for lower prices.

5) Legislature retains the right to tax liquor
Currently the law allows for the State to increase the liquor tax at any time without voters consent. Changing that is not a provision in this bill, so what’s to stop that from continuing to drive the prices up?

6) Repeals the “Three-Tier System”, which grants a monopoly to middlemen, at the detriment of consumers
This is just crap, as the new bill still has provisions for creating a distribution system. It’s still “three-tier”, you’ve just placed a different middleman. In fact, since the State is the current distributor as well as retailer, it’s not even a real “three-tier” system now. There is actually no income generated by the “middleman”.

Anyways, After I really go through the document I may have a different opinion, but please let me know yours!

Vintage Cocktails #26: The Mamie Taylor

The Mamie Taylor is an oft forgotten highball that had its spotlight in the cocktail world much the same as its namesake; short and sweet. A simple variation on the non-alcoholic Horse’s Neck, this cocktail was all the rage during the 1900′s, but faded from popularity soon after. As with many of the classics, prohibition, and the lack of access to many quality spirits may have had an impact in the drinks decline.

“The Post Standard”, 7th March 1902

“It was while Miss Taylor was the prima donna of an opera company playing at Ontario Beach, near Rochester, in 1899,” he said, “that she was asked with a number of other members of the company to go out sailing on the lake. As the day was hot and the breeze rather strong, the party returned after a few hours longing for some cooling refreshments. When Miss Taylor was asked what she would have she expressed the wish for a long but not strong drink–in fact, a claret lemonade. When the drink was served it was very evident that it wasn’t a claret lemonade, for it looked like a delicious long drink of sparkling champagne. On tasting it Miss Taylor found itmuch to her liking, but asked to have the flavor softened with a piece of lemon peel. When this was done the new combination drink was declared a complete success. Bystanders had been watching the proceedings and noticing the evident enjoyment with which Miss Taylor and a few of her friends relished in new drink they finally asked the hotel keepr what drink it was that was being served to them and without hesitation the hotel man replied “a Mamie Taylor” and the name seemed to meet with instantaneous favour and has become famous all over the country.”

I really enjoyed the Mamie Taylor. The ginger beer really pairs well with the scotch, creating a surprisingly light and refreshing beverage perfect,

The Mamie Taylor
2 oz Scotch
3/4 oz Lime Juice
Spicy Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer

A Northwest Spring Day, or the Dark ‘N’ Stormy….

It has been raining up here in the northwest for several weeks now. Whenever summer is upon us but the weather just isn’t great, I think of one drink in particular: The Dark ‘N’ Stormy. This drink is a perfect late spring or early autumn drink, as it bridges the gap between light spirit summers, and dark spirit winters. It is also a drink with a unique history.

In the early 1800′s, James Gosling set out from England with £10,000 in merchandise bound for America. The ship’s charter had expired on the ninety-first day of the voyage, so they set into port in Bermuda, and later set up shop on the island. In 1824, the company rented out their iconic store on Front Street which they have maintained for 127 years. After changing the company’s name to the current “Gosling Brothers”, they started formulating what would eventually become known as Black Seal Rum. Eventually this led to the creation of the Dark ‘N’ Stormy cocktail.

The uniqueness of this cocktail lies in the fact that it is trademarked by the Gosling’s. According to two trademark certificates on file with the US Patent and Trademark Office, it is dictated that the drink may contain two ingredients in specific proportions, Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and ginger beer.

“We defend that trademark vigorously, which is a very time-consuming and expensive thing,” said E. Malcolm Gosling Jr., whose family has owned Gosling’s since its founding in Bermuda in 1806. “That’s a valuable asset that we need to protect.”

If you have ever had the pleasure of a real Dark ‘N’ Stormy, you will know why Gosling’s went to such lengths to preserve the integrity of their creation. Black Seal is a rum like no other, and substituting it out, is a real tragedy. (Well not really a tragedy, but you get the idea) So do yourself a favor, and the next time you feel like a rum based refresher, reach for the Black Seal. You’ll be glad you did.

The Dark ‘N’ Stormy
2 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
Ginger Beer

New Belgium Blond

Beer of the Week: New Belgium – Belgian Style Blond Ale

I am a huge fan of most of New Belgium’s beers, and their Lips of Faith series is a great opportunity to try out some of the brews from NB’s creative side. Their Belgian Style Blond is a strong golden ale, light in color, with moderate body and a crisp finish. Belgian yeast provides banana and clove notes for a very crisp flavor profile. The ale is mildly hoppy, but has a quite a kick of about 8.5% ABV.

This brew pairs excellently with fish, and white sauce pastas.