The flask in the side pocket is standard golf equipment for a couple-three guys I know, and if you live in Washington USA like I do, filling the flask with brown liquid is fraught with complexities, over and above laying hands on the funnel …
We will write in this space about something other than golf now and then, but it will never be about politics, oh hell no. But still, I have to ask: What were we thinking?
In Washington state, we recognize there are other states in the Union, and just about all of you pay less for liquor.
We ‘tonians had the opportunity this year to take liquor sales out of the hands of the state. In the company town of Olympia, few admit to voting for Initiative 1183, but the numbers say a lot of us are lying: the statewide vote was close to 60 percent “yes.”
As of June 1, Big Government is out. Big Liquor is in.
Is liquor cheaper? No. Hell no.
Is it more convenient? You can find it more places, at later hours, every day of the week.
Is it easier for kids to get their hands on a bottle? Almost certainly.
Does it feel funny walking out of Safeway with a fifth? Oddly, yes.
Can you find your favorite booze any old place? Probably, if it’s Jim Beam or Jack, or Johnny Walker or Cutty Sark, or Absolut or Beefeater, the middle-brow stuff.
You hear this a lot: “We don’t have that, but we’ll be getting it …” It happened with Monarch Canadian, and it’s a bottom-shelf regular. Don’t ask me how I know that.
If you want Oban, or Balvenie, or Patron, you’ll have to look around, or plan ahead and order it.
In their defense, retailers are sorting it out, too … and the wholesalers (Big Liquor) are apparently controlling the flow.
So: Why isn’t booze cheaper in the free market?
The short answer: Same old taxes and a couple stiff new fees.
Taxes are the same as they were under the former system – 20.5 percent retail sales tax and a $3.77 liter tax (prorated per size of the bottle).
The initiative added a 10 percent fee at distribution and a 17 percent fee at retail.
You voted, by the way, for the new fees when you voted yes on 1183. Ignorance is no excuse.
According to the state Liquor Control Board, the markup on liquor in Washington now ranges from about 52 percent on up to 72 percent. When the state held the reins, the markup was 51.9 percent.
So: There’s still liquor for sale in Washington. It still costs more here than just about anywhere, and more, pretty much across the shelves, than it did before. Case in point: Evan Williams, the “poor man’s Jack Daniel’s,” $18.30, up almost a full six dollars over the pre-privatization price.
And … you’re paying more than ever to the government you wanted out of the business.
Is that what you thought you were voting for?
It’s enough to make me forgo the flask in the side pocket. Almost.