the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero

Can Costco hold its (hard) liquor?


My apologies, dear readers. Normally, I avoid discussing the categorically controversial, especially those topics that breach several, like politics, and money, and the smallest hint of religion– rather the one I write about here. Perhaps you will simply understand my concern and leave it at that; I will have no partisan quarrels here.

I was on a midnight munchie raid to the local grocery store last Friday evening and commented to the cashier when checking out about how I was sorry to see the store’s video rental section gone. Besides a few doughnuts and some jalapeño chips, I bought a movie from the racks that were no longer rental extras, but clearance.

She asked me if I knew what the reason was, hinting it had to do with a change that would affect grocery stores next month. I was tired and didn’t want to guess again when my first answer was wrong. No, it wasn’t about competition from Netflix (streaming/mail order) or Redbox (vending machine rentals).

It was that the store was making way for hard liquor. Because a voter initiative passed to put the state of Washington out of the business of selling such, grocery stores would claim that right soon, yes, as I said, next month.

I suppose it would be fair that I be clear about my biases. Perhaps you think it might be about my thoughts on liquor, itself. I am a teetotaler, for a wide variety of reasons, some religious, some personal, and while I did drink for a time, I gave my word to Cimmorene I would not again. I do not deny such considerations are a factor, but they are not the foremost.

I did spend a short time working convenience retail, and it is what I saw as a convenience store employee that concerns me. I thought it difficult enough keeping alcohol out of the hands of those who would obtain it unlawfully. Yes, that would include minors, but it would also include the severely inebriated. I thought the penalties were steep then– $300 in 1993– but they have risen sharply, more to the tune of $1000, and per infraction, if I recall correctly. I recall being tested– one girl coming in with a drunken babble, then returning later and revealing she was part of a police sting operative. How fortunate I did not make few the errors I did at other times then.

Now, I worked ever so shortly at a supermarket, yet I don’t really have a fair comparison. My observations over the years, however, suggest that grocery retail is a little more disciplined than the convenience sector. But I do not believe that it will ever be as disciplined as the state liquor stores were. And I think U & M is making a mistake by deciding to have hard liquor so close to the entrance in that Yoke’s store.

More importantly, I ask, does Costco Wholesale fully realize what they have brought on? They were the ones that contributed the lion’s share of finances to the legislation. Yes, of course, they are a national chain, and I think it stands to reason that they will fight or will have already won the right to sell hard liquor in all their stores and therefore in states other than Washington.

I will ask friends if Idaho’s law still stands, which I believe requires all employees selling liquor to card (ask for identification, that is) anyone buying such. The law is not so in Washington, now.

Forgive me an authoritarian streak– I know my stance doesn’t win me any points with those of the libertarian and anarchocapitalist persuasion, at least not directly. But I know there are others who must feel as I and the Yoke’s checker do. It will put employees more at risk for steep fines– and I would imagine they will rise much higher now that hard liquor is on the table.

I await to see if markets will choose to discipline and regulate themselves. But I do not see any promising indications of such.

Author: jaklumen

Wherever you see "jaklumen", that's me- the username is still unique as of the current year. Be aware that the facet you see, is only a small part of the me that is me.

4 thoughts on “Can Costco hold its (hard) liquor?

  1. The State of Alabama still handles the majority of our hard liquor sales. Convenience stores sell beer, grocery stores sell beer and wine…I guess wine-coolers, too. But the hard stuff comes from the ABC stores. (I really don’t know what the ABC stands for and care so little that I’m not even going to Google the answer.) The fines are steep, very steep, so steep that even 47y/o me got carded last time I bought some cooking beer*. I don’t want to see the hard stuff sold in the box stores or grocery stores. I like that the hard stuff is controlled—no one under the age of 21 is even allowed in the ABC stores. With laws like that it makes it hard if not impossible for some teen-aged kid to steal a bottle and take it to his/her buddies….or taking it off the shelf, finding some little hidey-hole and guzzling it then walking out of the store drunker-than-a-skunk. I am perfectly fine with having to go to a little bit of extra trouble to get the hard stuff. Right now the biggest issue is keeping the teens out of their own parents liquor stores.

    *What I call beer that is very cheap and does not taste good enough to drink but works perfectly well for cooking with.


    • Cooking beer? As in what I’d call “animal” beer? (Schmidt’s, Hamm’s, Schlitz Malt Liquor– anything that has a realistic or cartoony animal on it and yes, is cheap.)

      Yes, I wish that Washington still controlled the hard stuff, but Costco slammed this pretty hard. I’ve no idea how they will handle the added responsibility. State liquor stores looked like they had scanners and yes, they were more or less like the ABC (as you have described)… tightly controlled.

      The extra downside is that many small brewers no longer have a consistent, steady market. They have said already that the open market is not as stable and they will struggle.


      • Yes, the really cheap stuff. Around here it is Miller Light. I’m not sure the stores around here carry the three you mentioned. But, I don’t drink it and I buy whatever it is that Chris wants so I don’t really pay attention to the ‘other’ brands. I make Beer Bread with it and we boil our Bratwurst in it before grilling.


        • Good cooking choices. Cimmy likes to stay kosher, however, so I’ve taken to substituting a good ginger ale (that actually has a good content of ginger in it– Canada Dry, Shasta, etc. don’t fit the bill).


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