During the 2011 campaign for state liquor privatization, supporters said it would keep liquor out of gas stations, mini-marts and convenience stores. But opponents called voters attention to what they called the mini-mart loophole. More than 900 small outlets could pop up under that loophole, they claimed, including in places like Seattle and Tacoma.
As we pointed out at the time, both were exaggerations, but opponents in particular were essentially making up facts. Their conclusion was based on guesswork about what the Liquor Control Board would do.
Today, more than a year later, the liquor board revealed what it wants to do.
The fact is, Initiative 1183 does limit outlets to 10,000 square feet or more with two notable exceptions. One is for former state stores and contract stores. The other is for areas trade areas in the parlance of the initiative where no big store has opened.
The board today proposed a definition for trade area that would let those stores set up shop 20 miles or more from existing stores.
That would allow roughly 20 stores, the board figures.
There are 1,428 stores around the state where customers can buy hard liquor, more than four times the 329 that existed before the law passed.
Access obviously isnt an issue statewide, liquor board Chairwoman Sharon Foster said. But it is an issue in some of these areas that were going to try to serve.
Foster and Ruthann Kurose voted to propose the rule, while Chris Marr was absent. Now a public process starts that will give people the chance to weigh in with written comments through April 24 and a public hearing on that day. The board would finalize the rule on May 1 and it would take effect June 1.
Many stores have applied for licenses that would not qualify under a 20-mile buffer. Ill update this post with reactions to the proposal.