ASHLAND, Ore. – As the state considers privatizing liquor sales, local distilleries are fighting back. They say selling spirits outside state controlled liquor stores could destroy their business.
Each bottle of liquor sold has to go through a distributor, or a middle man. Right now that middle man is the state, which guarantees that locally-made spirits will get a chance to appear on store shelves.
But local distillers say a private distributor may deem their product unprofitable. Without a distributor, local liquors can’t appear in stores or restaurants.
“We’d have to find a distributor – one of the big, large, corporate distributors – to take us on,” said Diane Paulson, CEO of Ashland’s Organic Nation. “They might say ‘we’re not interested,’ because they aren’t going to make a bunch of profit.”
Many distillers in Washington found that out the hard way when the state made the switch to privatized distilleries.
Some distilleries lost as much as 50% of sales. For Paulson, that would mean end of the line.
“We may go out of business,” said Paulson. “Is that what Oregonians really want?”
But the OLCC says they also have to factor in the interests of the consumer, and a private model could give them more options to get liquor.
But that’s just one scenario out of many they’re looking at.
“With 50 different states in America, we have more than 50 different models for selling and serving alcohol,” said OLCC public affairs officer Christie Scott.
Scott says it’s anyone’s guess where it goes, but Paulson has her own prediction.
“When we’re able to tell Oregonians, this is what it really pencils out to… they’re smart, they’re educated, and they care,” said Paulson.