Editorial: Voters should reject trio of ballot measures that would gut liquor laws

It all sounds so good.

Availability of wine in grocery and convenience stores. Increasing the number of liquor-store locations that can be held per licensee. Third-party delivery of alcoholic beverages.

Who could be against such measures?

But the three alcohol-related ballot propositions that face voters in the Nov. 8 election are as flawed as a skunky bottle of wine.

Let’s take a look at them one by one:

• Proposition 124 would allow retail liquor stores to apply to state and local regulators to open additional locations beyond the current limit of three (going to four in 2027 under current law), taking it to eight locations immediately, 13 in 2027, 20 in 2032 and unlimited in 2037.

If passed, this proposition will damage small, locally owned liquor stores that might lack the resources or desire to expand. Who benefits? Large liquor-store chains with deep pockets. With eventual unlimited expansion, you can say “good-bye” to many of the state’s 1,600 small, Mom-and-Pop liquor stores.

• Proposition 125 sounds good on the surface, allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell wine, as well as wine coolers, sake, cider and mead. This would be extended to current fermented-beverage retailer licenses.

Proposition 125 is promoted by — you guessed it — grocery-store and convenience-store chains, to the detriment of local liquor stores. While many would support eventual wine sales in grocery stores, the current proposal’s provision for automatic conversion of licenses eliminates the requirement to demonstrate need and desire among nearby residents, along with any substantive review by local governments or community input.

• Proposition 126 would allow third parties such as UberEats or DoorDash to deliver alcohol directly to consumers on behalf of grocery stores, convenience stores, liquor stores, bars, restaurants and others. It would also permanently allow takeout and delivery of alcohol from bars and restaurants. (That measure is scheduled to be repealed in July 2025 under current law.)

While we support permanent takeout and delivery of alcohol by bars and restaurants, third-party delivery creates enormous danger. Current law mandates that businesses use their own employees to deliver alcohol. That enables them to properly vet buyers — through extensive training — to ensure that they are not underage. Proposition 126 would mean that retailers are not liable once alcohol leaves their premises.

Voters should look deeper at these measures, going beyond personal desire to buy a bottle of wine while grabbing a loaf of bread. These measures are inherently flawed, spurred by national chains eager for a bigger chug of the alcohol at the expense of small retailers.

Changes to liquor laws should be well-thought-out and methodical. These measures are neither.

Source: BizWest

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