OLCC Continues to Hold State Liquor Sales in Death-Grip

If you’ve wanted to stroll down the aisle of the Co-Op and grab a bottle of scotch, you’ll have to keep waiting. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled on March 29 that the ballot title for an initiative to see liquor sold in grocery stores would stand – meaning probably no booze for grocers quite yet. 

Trent Lutz, an Oregon Education Association official, filed a challenge to the certified ballot title for the measure on Jan. 5., citing objections to the measure. 

“This measure would cap revenues to the general fund and divert additional revenue to a separate fund,” Lutz wrote on Dec. 2. “This could impact dollars available to many other critical resources that impact our students.” 

Yet three months later, the court decided that the ballot’s title, which reads, “eligible retailers and wholesalers may be licensed to sell distilled liquor; retailers taxed on sales,” was enough. 

This is the second time that grocers have attempted to get the ability to sell liquor in their establishments – a privilege that a number of grocery stores in California, Washington, and other states have taken advantage of for years. 

In both 2014 and 2016, chief petitioners attempted to file ballot initiatives along these same lines, yet both times the ballot didn’t move forward. 

Last year, those in favor of ending OLCC’s seemingly never-ending monopoly on liquor filed a number of ballot initiatives so that they could choose between titles prepared by the Oregon Department of Justice. Proponents moved forward with the initial version of what they’re calling the Customer Choice and Convenience Act of 2022. 

From grocers’ line of thinking, liquor doesn’t spoil, unlike produce, meat, or fish. This makes it a highly valuable product with an essentially limitless shelf life, and it’s one of the few things that Oregon grocers are still unable to sell in-store. 

And, unsurprisingly, those most opposed to this bill? The Oregon Beer and Wine Distributors Association, whose economic interests would be jeopardized, should the OLCC’s grasp on hard liquor wane. Other opponents include the OEA and other unions, including the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees – a union that represents some OLCC employees. 

Union opponents claim that this bill, if passed, would threaten cash flow from the OLCC’s liquor sales to state and local governments, as well as union jobs. Grocers have proposed replacing this cash flow with a tax. 

Pollster John Horvick of DHM Research says that voters are the unhappiest they’ve been in the nearly 30 years his firm has kept records – something that seems quite good for this anti-government initiative. 

Now proponents of the bill are considering whether they should move forward with collecting the whopping 112,020 signatures required by July 8 of this year.  

By Ethan Hauck 

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