Grocers behind ballot measure to sell liquor

Grocers pursued a similar initiative two years ago but dropped it

KOIN 6 News Staff - PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) --- Oregon grocery stores are once again pursuing a ballot measure that would allow them to sell hard liquor.

Operating under a group called Oregonians for Competition, grocers filed paperwork for the ballot measure on Wednesday.

The initiative would allow liquor sales at stores that currently sell beer and wine, but not at gas stations. They need more than 88,000 signatures to get the measure on the 2016 ballot.

Currently, only the state can import and distribute liquor, which is sold at state-licensed stores.

Advocates say the initiative would make alcohol purchases more convenient.

Critics say privatizing the liquor system would make it harder for Oregon's craft distillers to compete for shelf space.

John Popp is the owner of 10th Avenue Liquor in Portland. He says bigger stores typically stock what's sold nationally. Popp is also concerned about job losses.

"A lot of liquor stores would end up closing and those that wouldn't, a lot would lose sales, so therefore jobs would go down."

Amanda Dalton with Oregonians for Competition disputes Popp's claim that the proposal would negatively impact Oregon distilleries.

"I encourage you to take a look at our shelves today for beer and wine, we promote a lot of Oregon products."

Grocers pursued a similar initiative two years ago but dropped it when they ran out of time to collect signatures.

Washington voters privatized liquor sales in 2011 and at least one group, the Public Health Institute, says it resulted in higher prices for consumers. Dalton disagrees with that assertion as well.

"We would disagree with that claim, we would say that Washington state had a different system to begin with and had a different system when they privatized."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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