Opinion

The changing world of booze | Editorial

To paraphrase the great Ogden Nash, candy is dandy for attracting customers, but liquor is quicker. And no doubt much more profitable.

The people of Washington last November, displaying wisdom inspired by a $20 million political advertising campaign by Costco, decided to take the state out of the liquor business. State-owned liquor stores are being auctioned off and small town stores that contracted with the state to sell liquor face the daunting task of competing with the big boys commencing in June.

Location, location, location may be the secret of real estate, but it never applied to liquor stores on Whidbey Island. The state-owned store in Oak Harbor is in a nondescript strip mall down the street from Dairy Queen. If you didn’t know it was there, chances are you wouldn’t notice it on your way to getting an ice cream cone.

Elsewhere, the contract stores are even more discreetly placed. In Freeland, the liquor store can’t be seen from Main Street. You turn into a dead-end street with a few shops off the beaten track, including the liquor store.

The Clinton Liquor Store isn’t even in what is generally considered Clinton. It sits far off the highway across and down the road from Ken’s Korner Mall. If forced to give directions, one might say it’s across from Naomi’s gas station, which by the way, has no indication that islanders still call it Naomi’s.

Whidbey Island’s other contract Liquor Store is located in Langley. Booze buyers can’t even drive there and park in front of the store. It’s located at the back end of “Langley Village,” requiring parking on Second Street and walking through the rest of the village, or parking on the dead-end Third Street and trying to find the path to the liquor store.

Regardless of location, people always manage to find their liquor, as for many it’s one of life’s pleasures or necessities. But we fear that small, out-of-the-way liquor stores with local operators may become a part of our quaint island past.

In June, liquor will be available at most major grocery stores. There will be no real need to drive out of one’s way to pick up a bottle of rum or gin; just stick it in the shopping cart along with the Cheerios and Hamburger Helper.

Costco and the other big stores will make more money, but part of what once made Washington state unique will be gone forever. We’ll be a little bit more like California, which is sad.

 

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