Wine sellers argue new fee would result in higher prices for consumers



Posted on November 12, 2010 at 5:50 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 12 at 6:45 PM

OLYMPIA -- The price of a bottle of wine in Washington might get more expensive soon, especially for those who buy at small wine shops.

The Washington Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association wants the Liquor Control Board to let them charge retailers an extra fee when they buy wine in orders smaller than a full case.

"It's going to come back to the consumer," said Patrick Hub, owner of downtown Olympia's Olympic Wine Merchant.

Hub said 70 percent of the cases he buys contain different kinds of wine. He said his small store does not have room for full cases of everything.

"If you're going to showcase this kind of arrangement of wine, you can't have cases of all of it," said Hub.

Hub said retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco would not be affected by the fee because those businesses can afford to buy full cases regularly.

According to the Wholesaler's Association, the fee would help distributors off-set labor costs associated with splitting up cases of wine. More than half of all wine in the state is sold in so-called "broken cases."

"The logistics are pretty daunting," said association Executive Director John Guadnola.

According to Guadnola, if the Liquor Control Board approves the fee it would not be mandatory and would not cause a steep increase in wine prices.

"I would guess it would be a pretty insignificant cost," said Guadnola.

The Liquor Control Board has set a public hearing on the proposal for Wednesday, December 1.