Washington State Liquor Control Board proposes trade area rules for retail liquor sales

Exception to 10,000 square foot threshold for retail spirits sales left undefined in Initiative 1183

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) today proposed draft rules that define a trade area as an “area where there is no spirits retail license within a twenty mile travel distance at the time of license application.”

Initiative 1183, which last year privatized the former state system of state-run liquor sales and distribution, limits the sale of retail spirits to a licensed retail business that is 10,000 square feet or larger. It exempted former state-run and contract liquor stores from the 10,000 square foot threshold.

A third exemption was for so-called trade areas. The initiative stated that the WSLCB may issue a spirits retail license to a premises comprising less than 10,000 square feet if the board determines that “there is no spirits retail license holder in the trade area the applicant serves or proposes to serve.” However, trade area was not defined in the initiative.

Under the proposed rules, the WSLCB will determine travel distance by a publicly available mapping tool which will be accessible via the WSLCB website no later than the rule’s effective date of June 1, 2013.

Under the former state system, there were167 state-run liquor stores and 162 privately-run small businesses that contracted with the state to sell liquor. Today there are over 1,400 retail stores selling liquor. 

Key Dates

March 13, 2013      Board approves filing of proposed rules
April 24, 2013         Public hearing on proposed rules
May 1, 2013            Board adopts or rejects rules
June 1, 2013          Effective date of rules





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