Washington State is Out of Booze

Just in time for Independence Day!
Apparently, the State of Washington is working hard to make me shut up with my complaints about the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.
Via the Overnight Thread at Ace of Spades, we have a story from the Seattle Times that the entire State of Washington has either limited supplies or is entirely out of stock of a variety of popular liquors.
Washington-Shortage

Dozens of “temporarily out of stock” signs dot the shelves of some state liquor stores, and store managers say they’re not sure when their complete product line will again be available.

Get out.
How the heck is an entire state out of booze?

Well, they aren’t exactly out of booze. They just can’t get it to anyone.

State officials blame the difficulties on a glitch in a new software system that controls the movement of 18,000 cases of liquor a day through the state’s distribution center on East Marginal Way South in Seattle.

You see, the state brings in all liquor through a single, central warehouse. This warehouse is designed with an automated system to collect liquor from bins and automatically set up the loads for the distribution trucks. It looks really cool. See?
Washington-System
There is just one problem. It isn’t up to the job at hand. I took one look at this set up and said, Wow! Someone has spent way too much time and taxpayer money getting ideas in Las Vegas!
wine_trapeze
This set-up works great at Aureole in the Mandalay Bay, but Washington’s implementation has a few shortcomings. First and foremost…

No hot chicks hanging from wires!

Exactly. And if there were, you couldn’t see them, since it’s in a warehouse with the awesomely appropriate address of Marginal Way.
More to the point, it isn’t working. And apparently has not been working since it was installed! It was not until the beginning of June that the state noticed there was a problem with their new toy, when they finally realized that they were only filling 65% of their orders. They claim the problem is fixed, but I have my doubts. After a month, with thousands of hours of overtime, and six temporary warehouses in operation, they can fill 80% of their orders. When they finally do get through the backlog, and go back to relying only on the system, let me know if it doesn’t immediately break down again.
Meanwhile, the state owned liquor stores can’t get product. The state license stores can’t get product. And the biggest pains in the butt is that restaurants can’t get product.
Those of you who read me religiously (all three of you), know how jealous of Seattle’s craft bar scene I am. But to go into a holiday weekend with no idea what inventory you can have must be a nightmare. And it’s going to be especially bad for the higher end watering holes, serving the more esoteric drinks.

…Pete Hanning, an owner of the Red Door in Fremont, said restaurants count on getting not just the most common liquors, but ones they can feature in specialty cocktails. For two weeks, he said, he was unable to offer a popular summertime sipper — a lemonade drink he makes with pear-flavored Absolut vodka. The Red Door has a large outdoor deck and depends on heavy summer traffic, Hanning said.
“The worst part is each week I’m not sure what’s going to be on my load and what products I’m going to be out of. It creates a lot of undue stress,” he said.

So you can probably get Stoli and Tanqueray, and all the Crystal Palace and Gibley’s you want. But if you can’t get the flavored versions of Absolut, what chance do you have of planning on Hendrick’s, or 10 Cane?
Oh, and coming next month, probably before they get their customer service act together, the state will increase the taxes on every bottle of booze by one to three dollars a bottle. You know, because you appreciate more the things that are most dear. I’m sure the good folks of Washington State will appreciate their enhanced appreciation of cocktails.

UPDATE: INSTALANCHE! Thanks Professor! Welcome to my corner of the cocktailosphere, folks! Please take a look around while you are here. Beyond the occasional post like this one on the politics and science of drinking, I also write about actual cocktails (including the greatest of all time), as well as doing booze and book reviews, and I often discuss the art of building your own Basement Bar. And I also try to keep it light….


RELATED POST

  1. Jeffersonian

    3 July

    My first encounter with ABC stores was in Akron, Ohio, when I went in to get a bottle of Myer’s Rum for some cocktail I was planning to make that weekend. “Sorry, the state doesn’t carry that one,” I was told. WTF? What sort of communist backwater is this state that what one drinks is subject to approval by some fat-assed bureaucrat in Columbus?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. Dobie

    3 July

    Yet another example of a ‘BUSINESS’ where government has no franken business.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. Roux

    3 July

    Can’t wait to see those “sorry temporarily out of health care” signs up everywhere.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  4. jvon

    3 July

    I think if I was a restaurant owner I’d be loading up an SUV full of booze in Portland right now, “laws” or not.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  5. ic

    3 July

    You should recognize a conspiracy when you see one. We were led to believe all those temperance busy bodies were relics of a bygone era. Surprise! They are working for the States’ liquor control.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  6. Mattsky

    3 July

    New Hampshire has state run liquor too. The 16 years I lived there I never heard of any problems. It was cheaper in NH too compared to the rest of the North East. I recall they also so had a Libertarian, Miriam Luce running the State Liquor Commission.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  7. ic

    3 July

    Roux: Can’t wait to see those “sorry temporarily out of health care” signs up everywhere.

    Most likely: Take a number, aisle one for annual physical, wait time: six months;
    aisle two for CAT/MRI scan, wait time: six weeks;
    aisle three for surgery, wait time: three weeks;
    aisle four for emergency, wait time: two days…

    If you can come in on the date stamped, you don’t need medical help at all.

    Health care cost saving: 50%

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  8. Anonymous

    3 July

    Moderate alcohol consumption provides health benefits.

    The State of Washington is unable to deliver alcohol in a timely manner to distribution points.

    Thus, the State of Washington is contributing to the high cost of health care.

    Bastards.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  9. mpw280

    3 July

    Moonshine is always an option and I am sure that there are more than a few people in Wash st that can manage to make and run a still to the satisfaction of their customers. mpw280

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  10. Ron T

    3 July

    I’ve been an Ohio resident for 25+ years. Way back then, one could only buy bottled liquor from State run stores. Those stores were disorganized, consistently out of stock on many items and employed “clerks” who were unskilled Minimum Wage types but were able to double the Minimum Wage at the State’s largess.

    A dozen or so years ago (I believe Voinovich was the Gov and he was still a Conservative {pre Potomac Fever}), the State granted franchises to high bidders and now corner stores as well as supermarkets sell liquor by the bottle. Unfortunately, Ohio eliminates competition and guarantees profit margins to distributors via a “State Minimum Pricing” scheme. If AnheuserBusch tells the State regulators that a 12 pack of Bud should be priced at $14.99, the State dolts nod their heads in unison and Voila!, Bud now can only be sold at $14.99 or higher.

    Get a Governor and Legislature that believes in deregulation. Every person that a State does not employ is one less pension us taxpayers have to pay.

    Ron T
    Toledo, Ohio

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  11. Joseph White

    3 July

    Washington State? Out of booze? WHAT. THE. F***.

    Wait a minute…Space Needle…it was our state! YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! DAMN YOU! DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!

    –A (tragically) sober Washingtonian

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  12. JKB

    3 July

    Of course the taxes must rise, someone got a big bonus for implementing this “non” distribution system. Now how many people lost their jobs so the state could install this “automated” system.

    Can we find out what company designed and sold this system so we can avoid buying their crap?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  13. Charlie

    3 July

    Home brewers know that when the “Gubbumint” gets involved trouble is not far behind.

    Things will get worse before they get better. And you guys got a lot of microbreweries that employ a lot of people. So things are gonna get a lot worse, and maybe they won’t get better.

    Oops!

    Charlie

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  14. betsybounds

    3 July

    Anyone else recall the pictures of empty store shelves in the old Soviet Union? Hmmmm.

    Why does ANYONE think ANY government, anywhere, is good at ANYTHING?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  15. 3DOGMAN

    3 July

    You can piss off a liberal,conservtive,your parents,your wife,your children,your boss and so on and so on.

    When you piss off a drinker you have a real fight on you hands.

    Sounds to me that we have a new form of exrtremist that the Dept of Homeland Security needs to watch and report back to all of America their findings.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  16. KevinF

    3 July

    Obviously a technology issue. If only there was SOMEONE in the State of Washington with some software expertise perhaps this could be fixed, but figure the odds…

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  17. J. Von Neumann

    4 July

    re: Inverted Cutie

    Is that actually how that system works?!?

    As cool as it may seem to dangle some chick from a wire to pull wine bottles, it’s absolutely idiotic from a process perspective.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  18. gus3

    4 July

    This sounds a lot like the Denver International Airport’s luggage management system. A single point of control, turning into a massive failure of scale.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  19. Brian G.

    4 July

    Not surprisingly, you don’t even bother to mention the likely cause: the influence of the religious right, who wants to control our lives and force us to live under Biblical law and want to keep us from things they don’t like, such as liquor.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  20. mikek

    4 July

    And the best part is that there is a scheduled 50% price increase starting August 1st. Thank god we have a state monopoly.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  21. I lived in Utah for a while – which also owns all the booze stores in the state. We non-Saint drinking types had to drive to border states if we failed to plan ahead for Sunday when the state liquor retailers were closed. We would then play fourth amendment roulette with the Utah Hwy Patrol to keep them out of our trunks when they stopped us after witnessing us cross from Utah into the Evanston, Wyoming liquor store and gas emporium, clearly visible from the state line, and immediately return after gassing up and depositing “packages” into our trunks.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  22. daddyquatro

    4 July

    Brian G. Says:
    July 4th, 2009 at 1:06 am

    Not surprisingly, you don’t even bother to mention the likely cause: the influence of the religious right, who wants to control our lives and force us to live under Biblical law and want to keep us from things they don’t like, such as liquor.

    LOL! In Washington state! Are you serious? It ain’t exactly the Bible Belt.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  23. Major Scarlet

    4 July

    yep.. i always had to special order 10 Cane.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  24. Walt K

    4 July

    Washington state has convinced the sheeple that only the bureaucrats can adquately control liquor. Should the alcoholic beverages be allowed to be sold in retail outlets,they argue,why there would be no control and the children would have access to booze. Besides, we have probably one of the highest taxes on liquor in the country and consequently a great number of us simply do not buy our liquor in the state any longer. We buy it for ourselves and friends out of state, like in Arizona and California. I would imagine that the state probably loses more than it gains by selling it and maintaining the the rediculous liquor stores with their government employees getting their high salaries and great pension plans. And the states to the south profit from the stupidity of their northern neighbor.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  25. Steve

    4 July

    @Brian-

    You’re totally right, poster ignores the influence of the 11th Commandment- Thou shalt not booze, only it is purchased from a state-run liquor store or made by the savior.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  26. J. Roth

    4 July

    I smell an unpaid inspector. They don’t work just for retirement. You want peach vodka, grease the wheel.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  27. RG

    4 July

    I’m a Washington resident (State – what other state says state?).

    I agree and disagree with your assessments. WA is great on wine and beer. We are one of 8 states (maybe 10 now) what allows local breweries to give the big finger to the three tier system of the Volstead Act. Breweries can directly distribute to the bar. The state has a crazy number of wineries – 400, 600, something like that.

    But hard booze, the STATE owns. State booze stores or contract stores. My city of 200K has 8 stores. One is in my neighborhood. Hard alcohol is a scarce substance (few stores) and guess what, my neighborhood has alcohol issues because we have a population of 20K+ trying to do to one store. Why is the state making problems in my neighborhood?

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  28. I just knew these guys couldn’t handle their liquor.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  29. Doug

    4 July

    Boy, I go to sleep, Instapundit drops by, and I have visitors!

    Mattsky: The problem I see with New Hampshire’s state owned liquor set up is this. They run it like a business, one that is predatory toward liquor outlets in the neighboring states. While I have a small problem with that, on principal, the big problem is that states can point to NH and say, “See? It works! New Hampshirites get good selection and low prices. Let’s do it too.”

    J. Von Neumann: The chick is from the restaurant in Vegas. The picture of the states warehouse just reminded me of her.

    BrianG: Actually, one of the few really good things about having the state profit from liquor distribution is this: All that money is a big incentive to get the state to tell the holy rollers to take a hike.

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  30. So, do the State Taxes go on all the bottles in the warehouse? Or, more appropriately, do the increased taxes go on them?

    You see the State has a great way to get some increased revenue just by sitting on the bottles until the taxes go up….

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  31. Doug

    4 July

    Best comment on this so far, elsewhere in the blogosphere:
    From TigerDroppings, a LSU fan blog:

    BAYOURANT:
    LSU fans Might Have to Demand Washington Game Be Canceled
    They are out of Liquor
    LINK

    Buckeye Fan 19:

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  32. Jack

    4 July

    Washington went democrat during the last election….

    you’d think that they would be able to make the intellectual leap that if the govt can’t deliver liquor, how the hell can it deliver health care?

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  33. Former Cincinnatian

    4 July

    Grew up in Cincinnati – I was 15 before I realized why my parents’ booze was delivered in brown paper wrapped boxes by a guy in a car with Kentucky plates.

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  34. Texpatriate

    4 July

    I live in Washington, and have no problem with state-run liquor stores, or a state lottery. With the government already running gambling and booze, however, I sometimes wonder why the state doesn’t go ahead and branch out into guns, drugs and prostitution. Powerful lobbies, is my guess.

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  35. william

    4 July

    Pennsylvania has state run liquor stores. Result? Higher prices (due to high taxes and inefficinet operations), limited selection, and the need to make an extra stop if you want to buy beer or wine. It will be hard to stop the practice here. In spite of taxing everything that moves and most things that don’t, we still have a budget deficit.

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  36. profaneone

    4 July

    If it is a software problem and since Portland is simply across the state border then maybe this guy has some contacts who could help fix the problems. (Of course he would only be able to tune the kernel on the final solution, but I am quite certain his contacts would be able to help out)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Torvalds

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  37. Don

    4 July

    I don’t understand how this happened. The old USSR had no trouble getting vodka to its masses. How else did they keep the masses from revolting? In the USA, we just allow all forms of sexual heodonism to control the folks and help destroy any inconvenient offspring.

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  38. fred suggs

    4 July

    Michigan does a pretty good job distributing liquor through the Michigan Liquor Control Commission stores that wholesale booze to retailers so the MLCC can put on their tax stamps and collect the state’s fees. As far as I know they do a pretty good job and stores are well stocked.

    Not long ago, liquor sales were somewhat deregulated in that the MLCC now allows retailers to set their own prices for distilled spirits as well as advertise booze.

    The reality is that thanks to George Romney and the 1963 Michigan Constitution, the state is actually well run, regardless of which party is in power in Lansing.

    Still, the Washington state liquor system shows how when it comes to operating businesses, most government agencies are out of their leagues.

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  39. BeachBumBill

    4 July

    The issue is framed as one of well-meaning but good hearted workers tripped up by a soon-to-be-fixed balky machine.

    The real issue is one of control. The state has taken control and is highly unlikely to ever give it back. Blew a bunch of ‘your’ money on a crap design (end to end) and you don’t like it? Tough. We the State are gonna spend even more to “fix” it. You don’t like that either? Too Bad.

    Typical bureaucrats. They like to think that they are just as good and as smart as ‘real’ businessmen, but the real fact is they are not. It would seem that they have developed a real fancy and efficient warehouse. A SINGLE warehouse for an entire state because it’s so much more efficient you see.

    A ‘real’ businessman would have set up his distribution system to function EFFECTIVELY first and then applied the cost-saving measures. But no, these idiots decided to cut to the chase and install the most effective machine without making sure that the whole system worked beforehand. Did any of these state employees bother to think of the impact of say a warehouse fire or water main break or long term power failure? Of course not. But why not, you might ask. The answer lies with who the real customers are. If you answer that the public buying the booze is the customer, you would be sadly oh-so-wrong.

    The first question is ‘Who are your customers?’ In a real business, the public customer is king, because without the money that they spend, the company goes out of business. The bureaucrat does not give a fig if you ever spend a dime in the state owned liquor store because his motivation is not to you, but rather his bosses up the state org chart. In fact, if no one ever spent another dime in state owned store, the state overlords would be thrilled, as more irritation to the smooth running of government would be gone. You, the public, are a mere interference in thier well-oiled machine.

    So, good denizens of Washington (the State), you are presented with a choice. Suck it up and hope that your State Overlords will improve the system -or- throw them out.

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  40. RED

    4 July

    —-Not surprisingly, you don’t even bother to mention the likely cause: the influence of the religious right, who wants to control our lives and force us to live under Biblical law and want to keep us from things they don’t like, such as liquor.—

    Yes, because Seattle is known as a backwater bastion of Christians —-

    Hahahahahhaahaaa.. Great sarcasm Thanks!!!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  41. Sam

    4 July

    Hello, another reader via Instapundit. Sorry to hear about the problems you are having in Washington. Utah has a pretty good distribution system and they continue to add new and better stocked stores. One big problem is that the store hours are more like a bank than a retail outlet. The other big problem is cost – the markup is substantial as they use the proceeds to fund school lunches or something like that. That leads to some interesting alternatives, including:
    Make your own beer and wine.
    Find a friend with access to the military base liquor stores.
    Import from out of state when traveling.

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  42. BeachBumBill

    4 July

    Back in the day… Prohibition was in place and the black market (think Al Capone) and bathtub gin thrived. In a surprising moment of enlightenment, the US Government realized that taxation was the preferred option. Some states instantly imposed the State Store system, Washington among them.

    Here is another question for the residents of Washington:
    What does the State Store do for you that a privately owned store will not? Remember that with a State Store system you are precluded from the benefits of free market competition.

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  43. lowboy

    4 July

    Yet another reader from Insty…

    We have the same problem in NC. Also SC I think (they used to be state run in South Carolina, may not be now). Aside from a limited selection and too high pricing, what’s not to love?

    However when I go out to Colorado I make it a point to stock up. Independent store owners who have SALES!!

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  44. ItIsWellKnown

    4 July

    No beer and no cable TV make Homer something something…

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  45. Todd

    4 July

    “Oh, and coming next month, probably before they get their customer service act together, the state will increase the taxes on every bottle of booze by one to three dollars a bottle.”

    Hey, raise the price high enough and nobody will want to buy it anyway. Problem solved!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  46. Glenn

    4 July

    Raise it high enough and people will make their own. I was in Norway in the 1980’s. A bottle of Grandad cost 60USD. A beer in a bar was also stupidly high. Almost everyone in the country had a still in the kitchen. Problem solved. Best and most potent moonshine I ever encountered and I live in Tennessee.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  47. Mattsky

    4 July

    Doug New Hampshire certainly is predatory toward liquor outlets in the neighboring states. They set up stores near the borders and even put stores in the highway rest areas. They were also open on Sundays. NH also borders on Canada which has very high prices on booze. I never took issue with it. I was happy not to have a sales tax or a state income tax but your point is well taken.

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  48. Civil Liberties

    5 July

    I live in Washington state. I don’t drink so getting/paying for hard liquor is not an issue to me normally. I grew up in California where the state does not own liquor stores. It took me a while to adjust to here though because there have been times I needed say a bottle of vodka and had to make a special trip. I don’t drink but others do.

    You can get beer and wine in the grocery stores though, which is nice because I do cook and I use wine (and sometimes beer) in sauces and the like so that makes it less annoying.

    I can’t remember where I was at but I think it was Maryland…you can’t even buy beer in a grocery store. I was so surprised that the state was that big of a weenie. Of course they’re right next to Pennsylvania and knowing what Iknow now…no big surprise.

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  49. Civil Liberties

    5 July

    And brandy. Got to have brandy for coq au vin, which entails a trip to the liquor store…

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  50. Rob

    6 July

    @fred suggs (#39):

    >> The reality is that thanks to George Romney and the 1963 Michigan Constitution, the state is actually well run, regardless of which party is in power in Lansing.<<

    I'm damned near choked on that one! (I guess I shouldn't drink or eat anything when reading blog comments.)

    You ARE joking, aren't you fred? Our state is in the worst shape of any in the country, and all the buffoons in Lansing can come up with is MORE taxes and ridiculous regulations. Although, I suppose if your goal is to depopulate the state as much as possible then Lansing has been doing a great job it. (At least the beavers have come back to Detroit for the first time in near a century.)

    I think the main reason MLCC hasn't screwed things up as bad as Washington is that they have multiple wholesale distributors set up. Even our goofballs haven't been so stupid as to try to make all distribution for the entire state go through a single point, as Washington did.

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  51. This seems less like a government incompetency issue and more like a bad case of cool new toy syndrome. Maybe people should learn to test fancy new systems before implementing them, regardless of whether they’re in a government or a business.

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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