Manny Castro, father of a 7-month-old son, watched the news in angst as the numbers rolled in for last month’s passing of Initiative 1183: the end of Washington’s liquor store monopoly.
And that was it. He came to the conclusion that he no longer would have a job in the upcoming year.
Castro, 33, and about 900 other Liquor Control Board employees will lose their jobs when large retailers in Washington begin selling liquor on June 1, 2012.
Castro has worked in North Bellevue as a full-time assistant manager for over 11 years. He is not only nervous about the uncertainty of securing a new job, but also how long it will take him to find one.
“The thought of not being able to provide for my family is scary,” Castro said. “I’m disappointed that the initiative passed, but the voters have made their decision.”
The initiative passed with 60 percent of the vote. Costco spent $22.7 million on a voter campaign to get the state out of the liquor business and allow private retailers to sell liquor instead.
Advocates for the “Yes” campaign wanted state officials to retain regulation and enforcement responsibilities. The state can then provide revenue sources, which would benefit the public by setting aside a portion of income specifically to local police, fire and emergency services throughout the state.
Further, arguments by the “No” campaign were primarily focused on safety implications; opponents felt at this would provide easier access for minors to alcohol.
“As a father one of my biggest fears is that liquor will get in the hands of more minors,” said Castro. “Let’s hope the new system will continue to provide the correct training and enforcement to deter liquor being sold or given to minors.”
The state budget office estimated that the initiative could generate an extra $42 million a year for the state and $38 million for local governments over the span of six years — averaging $80 million more in annual revenue.
The passing of I-1183 allows stores measuring at least 10,000 square feet to sell liquor. Retailers are allowed to buy liquor and wine directly from manufacturers without going through a distributor.
A manager at the Central District Safeway commented on the impact the initiative will have on Safeway in general. He asked to be unnamed.
“I think a lot of good will come from the initiative. It will benefit the retailers. I mean it’s another thing we can sell,” he said. “I believe bringing competition lowers prices too. Hopefully it creates more jobs at the store levels, so they’ll gain in the long run.”
Safeway plans to sell liquor in all of its 155 stores in Washington, according to a recent Seattle Times article.
Manufacturers can offer major retailers like Safeway and Costco quantity discounts for purchases of liquor and wine, but not for beer.
Some local bartenders said the initiative could negatively impact the businesses they work at since people will be able to access hard liquor outside of their establishments easier, and drink costs could be lower. This could mean people will drink outside of entertainment venues.
However, Kyle, a bartender at Fort St. George in the International District who declined to give his last name, is not worried about business declining.
“The selection of hard-to-find bottles, some of our scotches, and Japanese cocktails — someone won’t find at a grocery store,” Kyle said. “We can offer more than the source with the pure entertainment and atmosphere that comes with the bar itself.”
Castro plans to prepare for the future by blowing the dust off his resume and networking to see what jobs are out there.
Costco CEO Jim Sinegal wants to ease the path for laid-off Liquor Board employees by giving them the opportunity to interview for jobs at Costco, according to a recent interview with KING-5 news.
“I’m not counting out Costco or anybody else, but I’m taking some time to explore my options,” Castro said. “It’s been 12 years since I’ve seriously had to look for a job. The only thing to do is find another one or win the Lotto.”
Looking to the future, Castro remains optimistic for himself and his family. He expresses he just has to be hopeful.
“I’m sure there’s people out there that would love to hear me bash Costco and the supporters of the Initiative. Although the passing directly affects me, I never took it personal,” Castro said. “In life some things you can’t take personal, you gotta’ roll with the punches and keep it moving.”