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The 17 percent fee on sales was stripped for former contract liquor stores by lawmakers last year. The Costco coalition says that’s not fair for large retailers and bars. Restaurant representatives also said sometimes it’s more convenient to buy from a retailer than wait for a delivery from a distributor, especially in rural areas.

“We would have the option to do delivery. But understand that we are grocery stores. We don’t want to be distributors,” said Holly Chisa, a lobbyist for the Northwest Grocery Association during a Senate panel testimony earlier this month.

They also argue that the language in the initiative didn’t mean the 17 percent fee applied to sales from grocers to restaurant and bars. The Liquor Control Board thought otherwise and applied the 17 percent fee for these re-sales.

Phone and email messages to Costco and the Northwest Grocery Association were not returned.

Costco and the Initiative 1183 group have already sued the Liquor Board over volume limits on sales from retailers to restaurants. Currently, retail stores can’t sell more than three cases to bars and restaurants. That lawsuit stalled and the group tried to pass that language through measures in Olympia. So far, they haven’t succeeded.

Lawmakers of both parties in the House and Senate also did not return phone calls.


Manuel Valdes can be reached at