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Washington Restaurants Changing The Way They Buy Liquor

Anna King


Washington restaurateurs are preparing for a new option that begins March first: They'll be able to buy liquor directly from distilleries and out-of-state distributors. It's one part of the new roll out of Initiative 1183, passed by voters in November. Some restaurants are waiting to see how the new marketplace shapes up, others are aggressively hunting down deals.

Chad Mackay is the president of a company that owns the El Gaucho restaurants throughout the Northwest and Aqua in Seattle. He says he thinks initiative 1183 offers his restaurants an unprecedented opportunity to get deals on liquor and wine.

"It is a little wild west," Mackay says.

He's already lined up a special partnership with a craft distillery to make a branded bottling for his restaurants. And Mackay says he's looking into getting special offerings like imported Scotches he couldn't buy before.

"The special order process was onerous if you were a restaurant owner and you were trying to get a specialty vodka or specialty tequila," he says. "But now we can just do a direct distribution on it, a direct import."

Mackay says he doesn't expect liquor prices to come down dramatically. That's because restaurants are struggling with high beef and produce prices. But he does think consumers will start to see more variety of choices.

State liquor stores are scheduled to close down at the end of May.

On the Web:

Full text of Initiative 1183:

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