- Patrick Long
- This illustration doesn't really relate, but I love it.
The regulation changes will be up for a vote at the OLCC commission in March and would allow liquor stores to sell beer and wine, plus allow corporations to apply for wholesale liquor-selling contracts. Currently, only individuals can apply to run liquor stores, but under the new rules, businesses like Safeway, Fred Meyer and the Portland Mercury (yes, please) could apply to open a "store within a store" to sell hard alcohol by the bottle. Two of these stores already exist as a pilot-project in the region, on a large scale, they would be like in-store Starbucks or bank branches, which are operated independently from the grocery stores they inhabit.
The OLCC has been working on developing the new rules for about two years, says OLCC spokeswoman Christie Scott, noting that they're not motivated by Washington's recent privatization of liquor sales.
As a person who likes to consumes alcohol in responsible quantities, the current geographic segregation of beer sales from liquor sales is frustrating. The OLCC's reasoning for keeping the two sales separated is that a proliferation of stores selling hard liquor could lead to higher crime rates. Changing these rules would not lead to a flood of new liquor stores, it would just allow corporations to apply to run liquor stores whenever a slot opens. The state has contracts with 246 liquor stores in the state, says OLCC spokeswoman Christie Scott, and has opened about six new contracts in the past two years.
Since this is essentially creating a process to build a loophole into state law to allow sales of liquor in grocery stores, why not just go all the way and scrap the liquor segregation law? Scott explains that rewriting liquor law to that extent would require the legislature to pass a bill changing state law. Instead, the OLCC is working to change its regulations without needing sign-off from the state.