Wash. prepares to accept bids to privatize liquor distribution

Aug 30, 2011

OLYMPIA, Wash. – The state of Washington is getting ready to accept bids from private companies to take over the distribution of liquor. One question: how to evaluate the financial promises the bidders make.

This was a key topic Tuesday as state leaders met in advance of the formal bid process that’s about to get underway.

Washington currently has a single liquor distribution center in Seattle that sends booze to outlets across the state. The question the Washington legislature has is this: Could a private entity take over this portion of the state’s liquor monopoly and make more money for the state and local governments over the next, say, 20 years?

When the bids come in someone has to decide if they pencil out. House Budget Chair Ross Hunter, a Democrat, expects bidders will say they can meet customer needs better than the state currently is.

"You can buy one bottle of 50-year-old Scotch instead of having to buy a whole case," Hunter says.

But would that actually drive up sales of that expensive 50-year-old Scotch? That's the kind of evaluation the state will have to make of these bids.

But this could all be immaterial. This fall Washington voters could approve a measure that would privatize the entire liquor system.

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