During my recent trip to Vegas, I made a side trip to a discount liquor warehouse. That’s right, warehouse. This facility was like an airplane hangar. Alcohol was stacked on palettes from floor to ceiling. It felt like a stroll through Costco, only without the free samples of toaster oven pizza and about ten thousand fewer shoppers. Needless to say, it was the single greatest experience I’ve ever had shopping for alcohol.
Exiting the store, I was thoroughly impressed with how well the liquor stores in Vegas are run. In contrast, I couldn’t help shaking my head over how the state of Washington does it all wrong…
You see, in Washington, all the liquor stores are run by the state. This means prices, location, store hours, and selection are all controlled by our elected government officials and their appointed unemployed family members. In other words, the liquor stores in our state are a complete debacle.
The business model for Washington’s liquor stores is similar to that of convenience stores. That is to say, they’ve mastered the concepts of cramped aisles, poor selection, and price gouging. Unfortunately, the state ignored the only upsides to this formula: The convenient hours and locations.
First, let’s start with the facilities. No warehouses here. And as far as locations go, the state of Washington follows the “Inverse-Starbucks” rule: Instead of placing a store on every street corner, they opt for placing one per area code. And when they do actually build a liquor store, they intentionally place them far away from schools. Sadly, this creates a tremendous burden on high school students with fake ID’s. It’s also a hardship on working families, as parents often have to choose between picking up their kids or picking up booze on their way home from work. I can’t tell you how many times I was on the wrong end of that coin flip growing up.
Then there are the hours of operation. The liquor stores in Washington are closed at night and during holidays. That’s really all that needs to be said. All right, I’ll say more: Sweet idea! Nobody likes to drink at night or during holidays! (Italicized for sarcasm.)
Finally, the prices at Washington liquor stores are astronomical, mainly due to the excessive alcohol taxes in our state. Because of these taxes, booze in Washington costs literally twice as much as it does in Vegas. Now, I’m used to paying high taxes, as my annual income puts me squarely in the “Zillionaire” bracket. However, the alcohol tax is especially punitive, as I generally use alcohol to help cope with all the other taxation in my life.
Apparently, the state realized that it is impossible to directly tax “happiness”, so they settled on the next closest thing: alcohol. Like the Holy Grail, I’m sure the state will continue looking at ways to tax “happiness,” as I fully expect to see a proposed XBox tax during the next legislative session.
As you might guess, the high taxes do nothing to curtail the quantity of alcohol that we consume. Unfortunately, it’s the quality that suffers, as heavy drinkers are forced to settle for the most generic bottom-shelf alcohol on earth.
Of course, everyone knows that bottom-shelf alcohol should only be used for utilitarian purposes, like unclogging drains and disinfecting wounds. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to overhear a respectable Washington drinker discuss his preference of using paint thinner over Monarch Vodka when making a martini. Without hesitation, most of us would agree with this choice, as the paint thinner tends to have less after-taste.
To be fair, sometimes we splurge for a bottle of top-shelf booze on a special occasion… like winning the lottery. Other than that, we’re increasingly forced to concoct “drinks” out of household chemicals as a substitute for ridiculously overpriced alcohol. Trust me, there’s nothing like a refreshing Old Spice and tonic after a hard day’s work. And I personally enjoy sitting around smoking cigars while sipping a Listerine on the rocks.
True, these are nice short-term fixes to the high-priced alcohol dilemma. Cleary though, heavy drinkers in Washington need an alternative. But what are my options? I suppose I could start distilling moonshine, and complete my destiny of turning into a cast member from the Dukes of Hazzard. I already drive recklessly and have been known to shoot a bow and arrow out of my car window. Or, I suppose I could give up drinking. Of course, unless annoying people are willing to give up living, I don’t see this as a potential solution either.
Thankfully, I do have an answer: Vegas. Simply fill a hollowed-out mannequin with booze, and pass it through airline security as your wife. They’ll both reek of alcohol anyway, right? Who could tell the difference? And when you get back to Washington, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy a quality drink while you try and figure out how to get your wife home from the Las Vegas airport…