When you want to buy wine in Oregon, you can pick it up during a trip to the grocery store.
When you want liquor, you have to go to a state-authorized store.
Does that split make any sense any more?
It seems an anachronism in a state that has made it easy to buy marijuana. Does that extra trip have a significant enough benefit for public health? To protect the existing state-approved stores? For some other reason?
Those are the kinds of questions Oregon voters may face about a year from now on the ballot. Lauren Johnson, CEO of Newport Avenue Market in Bend, is one of the sponsors of two possible ballot measures. Both measures would mean a win for grocery stores over state-liquor stores, freeing up more places where Oregonians can buy distilled spirits.
If all this sounds like deja vu, that’s because it’s been tried before and failed. Not these exact ballot measures. Similar ones.
Last week the elections division of the Oregon Secretary of State said both of these new measures have passed the low hurdle of getting enough signatures — 1,000 each — to allow the circulation of petitions. They will now get ballot titles and then supporters will have to round up more signatures — about 112,000 each — to get them on the November 2022 ballot.
The two measures vary slightly. One will likely be withdrawn.
Both would not allow liquor sales at smaller stores, such as many convenience stores. The measures say the premises must be greater than 4,000 square feet. If grocery stores with the appropriate license can be trusted to sell it, why can’t convenience stores? Too convenient?
We can’t predict what these measures would do to liquor prices, the amount of hard liquor consumed or the ability of smaller distillers to get shelf space in big grocery stores. Those are all things worth thinking about if you get a chance to sign a petition.