Washington law has not kept pace with the state’s relatively new liquor laws. Now a bill proposed by an Enumclaw lawmaker aims to change that.
“This is dangerous. This is a product that, in the hands of juveniles, is going to kill someone,” said Rep. Christopher Hurst, who chairs the House Government Accountability and Oversight committee. It oversees liquor-related issues.
Hurst, and many law enforcement agencies, say alcohol theft continues to be a problem more than a year and a half after voters allowed liquor to be sold in grocery stores.
They say some stores have not taken proper steps to secure their liquor; however, the state has no way to monitor or punish those stores that are lax.
“The bill I have would give power, fairly sweeping power, to the liquor control board to control licenses and even remove licenses for stores that are losing alcohol,” said Hurst.
Hurst plans to introduce his bill on the first day of the legislative session in Olympia later this month.
The bill would require problem stores to hand over their liquor theft data to liquor control board. The stores have to prove they are fixing the problem or face losing their liquor license.
Holly Chisa of the Northwest Grocery Association says the bill is more palatable to grocers than some of the other suggestions that were under discussion.
“Our association hasn’t taken an official position on that bill, but there are some components of it that we like,” said Chisa.
One of them is that the law would target individual problem stores, as opposed to a blanket crackdown.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) has asked for a law requiring all grocery stores to provide their liquor theft stats to the state and the public.
WASPC says that’s the only way that police can identify which stores have a liquor theft problem.
Rep. Hurst says providing all that data would be too time consuming for the stores and the state, which would have to provide the manpower to analyze the data.