Initiative 1183 would take Washington state out of the liquor retail business. Guest columnist Al O'Brien urges voters to pass I-1183, saying it would save the state money, while generating more money for local law enforcement.

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I’VE devoted my career to protecting public safety. I served in law enforcement for 29 years, and then chaired the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee in our state House of Representatives.

As a former police officer and state lawmaker, I have consistently focused on promoting and strengthening public safety.

I’ve studied Initiative 1183 and urge a Yes vote. The initiative focuses our state on enforcing liquor laws — instead of selling liquor.

I-1183 is a responsible plan to end Washington’s costly, outdated state-liquor-store system and to finally allow qualified grocery and retail stores to sell liquor in our state, while increasing revenues for state and local services without raising taxes.

This initiative significantly improves upon past proposals. It will limit liquor sales to medium and large grocery and retail stores, most of which already sell beer and wine. The records show that these stores are just as effective as state liquor stores at preventing sales to minors.

Let’s be clear — I-1183 requires stores to have at least 10,000 square feet of fully enclosed retail space in order to be eligible to sell spirits — which rules out liquor sales at minimarts, gas stations and convenience stores.

The opposing campaign is deceptive and misleading — and has been bankrolled by out-of-state liquor dealers concerned about protecting their own profits, not public safety.

Under I-1183, Washington would join 42 other states that allow consumers to purchase liquor from licensed grocery or retail stores, rather than government-run outlets. These other states are no less safe than Washington. In fact, many have lower rates of alcohol consumption, lower instances of teen access to alcohol and lower DUI statistics.

Concerns about sales to minors, enforcement and local control have all been addressed by I-1183. The initiative toughens liquor laws. It doubles fines and penalties for selling liquor to minors, mandates new training and compliance requirements for retailers, and dedicates new funding for local public-safety programs. Local officials can use these vitally needed revenues to restore cuts to public safety, hire new police officers or employ more firefighters.

How does I-1183 do this? It eliminates the huge costs of running the state liquor system and requires businesses with licenses to sell liquor to pay reasonable license fees based on a percentage of their sales.

In fact, according to estimates by the state’s own Office of Financial Management, I-1183 will generate more than $400 million in new revenues for state and local government services over the next six years. Of that, $60 million is dedicated specifically for local public-safety programs.

With I-1183’s passage, the city of Seattle will receive an estimated $25.7 million in new revenues over six years, based on local revenue estimates by the nonpartisan Washington Research Council and the state Office of Financial Management.

That’s why public safety officials across our state are urging a Yes vote.

To learn more about I-1183 and about our coalition of more than 10,000 Washington taxpayers, community leaders, law-enforcement and public-safety experts, businesses and organizations, please visit our website at

I hope you’ll agree that I-1183 is the right plan for Washington.

Al O’Brien served 14 years in the Washington State House of Representatives (D-Mountlake Terrace), where he chaired the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee. He is a retired Seattle police officer and sergeant, a former Mountlake Terrace City Council member and currently teaches criminal justice as an adjunct faculty member at Seattle University.