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Liquor board moves to define new exemption for private retailers

The Washington State Liquor Control board is considering new rules that could allow for small liquor retailers to apply for licenses even if they don’t meet the state’s 10,000-square-foot size threshold, a limit that was mandated by Initiative 1183.

Last year, I-1183 privatized the former state-run liquor sales and distribution system. But it limited the sale of retail spirits to licensed retail businesses that are 10,000 square feet or larger in size.

Former state-run stores and contract liquor stores that did not meet the threshold were exempt from that requirement.

The initiative also required a third exemption for what it termed “trade areas.” That exemption would allow licenses to be issued to retailers too small to meet the size requirement, as long as “there is no spirits retail license holder in the trade area the applicant serves or proposes to serve,” according to the text of the measure.

The liquor board’s proposed new rules would define such an area as one “where there is no spirits retail license within a twenty mile travel distance at the time of license application,” according to a press release.

Under the proposed rules, the liquor board would determine travel distance by a publicly available mapping tool which will be accessible on the board’ website no later than June 1, 2013, the date the new rule would go into effect.

The proposed rule can be found online: www.liq.wa.gov/laws/laws-and-rules (under Proposed Rules).

The liquor board has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal in Olympia on April 24, but comments can also be mailed to Rules Coordinator, Liquor Control Board, P.O. Box 43080, Olympia, WA 98504-3080; emailed to rules@liq.wa.gov; or faxed to 360-664-9689.

Under the former state system, there were 167 state-run liquor stores and 162 privately-run small businesses that contracted with the state to sell liquor. Today there are more than 1,400 retail stores selling liquor, according to the board.

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