Grocery Booze Wars Escalate in Oregon

The battle lines remain the same as a 2022 ballot fight approaches.

dairy case Price check in the dairy case, Southwest Portland. (Brian Burk)

The Northwest Grocery Association last week withdrew and then quickly refiled a pair of 2022 ballot measures that would allow Oregon grocery stores to sell hard liquor.

That desire, which would break the near monopoly that state-chartered liquor stores have held since Prohibition, is not new. This effort marks the third time in the past decade that grocers have sought permission to sell liquor.

They failed to make the ballot the past two times, but the Legislature’s willingness to approve $90 million earlier this year for a new liquor warehouse for the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission added urgency to the grocers’ push.

As in the past, the state’s beer and wine distributors oppose privatization of liquor sales, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, whose members staff OLCC warehouses, are likely to oppose it also.

Amanda Dalton of the grocers’ association says her group’s intent remains the same. “It’s all about customer choice and convenience,” Dalton says.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.