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Originally published December 21, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Page modified December 21, 2011 at 2:57 PM

Judge won't halt liquor privatization

A Cowlitz County judge on Wednesday rejected a request to temporarily halt an initiative to privatize state liquor sales while the courts decide whether it's constitutional.

The Daily News

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KELSO — A Cowlitz County judge Wednesday rejected a request to temporarily halt an initiative to privatize state liquor sales while he decides whether it's constitutional.

But Judge Stephen Warning acknowledged that the final ruling on whether Initiative 1183 is constitutional will come from the state Supreme Court.

"I don't think my decision is going to be the final decision in this case," Warning said.

Like another case filed by unions in King County earlier this month, the lawsuit argues that I-1183 violates a rule requiring voter initiatives to address just one subject.

The plaintiffs' attorney for the Cowlitz County case, Michael C. Subit, won a lawsuit against a Tim Eyman initiative on those grounds more than a decade ago.

The current lawsuit had sought a temporary injunction to stop the law from going forward as planned. Although it has already taken effect, the law does not allow grocery stores to sell liquor until June 1. The Washington Liquor Control Board plans to begin winding down its liquor sales and distribution system in January.

The Cowlitz County lawsuit was filed by owners of two Red Apple stores who say they could lose business because of I-1183, the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, and Dave Grumbois, a landlord who could lose his liquor-store tenant.

The plaintiffs are not paying for the lawsuit alone, but Subit declined to say who else is contributing. The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, which contributed much of the $12 million spent to fight I-1183, has declined to comment on whether it will pay for legal costs for this and the King County lawsuits.

In November, voters approved I-1183 with 59 percent of voters in support. The measure was bankrolled by Issaquah-based Costco Wholesale, which donated a record $22 million to the campaign. Not all the money was spent, and some will be refunded; Costco recently told shareholders it spent a total of $19 million.

Judge Warning is scheduled to hear arguments about the constitutionality of I-1183 on March 5.

Seattle Times reporter Melissa Allison contributed to this article.

She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com.

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