Michael Galen Nichols is our Regional Sales Manager here at Boundary Bay Brewery. He is a treasured employee…not just for his many years of being a part of our brewery family, but also because he is well educated and unafraid to speak his mind. He has strong values and a curious mind and we value that. Below, he’s written his perspective on the effects of Washington State Initiatives 1100 and 1105. We think he has a unique perspective to offer since he not only has the benefit of working for a brewery, but also of being in contact with all kinds of establishments in Washington State that serve beer – whether in bottles on on tap. Here’s what Michael has to say about these much debated initiatives:
“Please vote no on 1100 and 1105.
If the current alcohol sales initiatives 1100 and 1105 were really about allowing individuals the freedom to purchase liquor at grocery stores, this essay might well be written in favor of them. In fact, these initiatives have little to do with individuals or individual freedoms, and are instead profit-motivated corporate manipulation of our political system by big-businesses. They want a climate which will allow them to dictate to consumers which products they may purchase. These initiatives will cause prices at small, independent taverns and bars to rise, while allowing larger, corporate establishments to demand wholesalers not sell their products to the smaller businesses at all.
It is not coincidental that Washington is the home to so many craft breweries. Laws originally designed to keep organized criminals from dominating the alcohol sales and distribution business in our state (as they did here before prohibition, and still do in some other states) fostered a welcoming environment for new small businesses which manufacture their own products. In Washington, as things are now, a small business can be created which brews its own beer, sets its own prices, and delivers its own merchandise. The Washington State Beer Commission lists dozens of breweries in our state, and the beer produced by those businesses is available to the consumer in countless different venues.
Consider the climate in a state like Nebraska, where it is actually illegal for a brewery to distribute their own beer (1105 would do this with liquor, and if it passes the distributors will soon have enough power to put beer on an upcoming ballot): the Nebraska Craft Brewers Association lists less than ten breweries, and none of those do even bother to sell their products outside of their own tap rooms. That could be the situation here soon, if our residents vote for these onerous initiatives.
These initiatives have little to do with the Individual vs. the State, as their sponsors have tried to portray them, and are really about the Corporation vs. the Individual. What the sponsors of these initiatives want is an environment in which they can literally buy shelf-space for whatever products they want to move, not the products consumers wish to buy. If the profiteering corporate heads behind these initiatives get their way, they will dictate who can buy what, and from whom and at what price. The consumer protections currently in place will be stripped away, and we will be forced to buy whatever Costco and Wal Mart (in the case off 1100) or the distributors (in the case of 1105) decide they want us to buy. The start-up brewery trying to break into the industry will not be allowed to drive around in an old van selling an exceptional product at a fair price to any who would like it (which is more or less how Ed Benett, Bruce Kale, and the original folks at Boundary did it), because every stop will be a series of negotiations and back-room deals, until finally, exhausted from the wasteland that is now the Washington State craft-brewery circuit, they will have to give in to the extortion that is the real motivator behind 1100 and 1105.
Many reasonable people have suggested that one of these initiatives is less onerous than the other, or that one or the other of them will have less an impact on Boundary Bay’s ability to function as we have been. In fact, after much thought and discussion, most of us here at the brewery agree that the impact of either or both of these initiatives on us will probably be limited to making the job of only a few individuals more difficult: we are established enough, at least in western Washington, to weather the changes that might happen. We are fans of good beer around here, however, and we are fans of the pubs that sell good beer. Not just our own version of ambrosia, but other people’s as well – and not just our own tap room – we like other pubs, too. There is a lot of competition in Washington for tap handles at bars. There is a lot of competition for shelf space at stores. There are dozens of craft breweries competing for limited space, and it is challenging to win it. The way to do so is to be fair, reliable, and to offer a product of exceptional quality. If these initiatives pass, fairness, reliability, and quality will matter little compared to simple greed. Please vote no on 1100 and 1005.”