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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Grocery Industry Backs Away From Oregon Liquor Privatization Measure

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network

The grocery industry is calling it quits on a potential ballot measure that would have privatized liquor sales in Oregon. Currently, hard liquor like whiskey, vodka and gin can only be sold in state-chartered stores.

Grocers want to be able to sell it along with their current selections of beer and wine, but the industry group behind the effort said Wednesday they won't collect any more signatures for the initiative.

They say they're shifting their focus to work on defeating a separate initiative that would increase corporate taxes. That initiative is being circulated by some left-leaning groups financed by public employee unions. Many businesses in Oregon, not just the grocery industry, are uniting against that initiative.

It's the second election cycle in a row that the grocery industry has backed away from a privatization measure in Oregon. In 2014, the proposed initiative bogged down in court over a dispute about its wording.

Opponents to this year's initiative included public employee unions. Ryan Frank, a spokesman for the group “Keep Liquor Local,” said in a statement that the initiative would have threatened revenues that support government services.

The effort to privatize liquor sales in Oregon this year was largely financed by Idaho-based grocery chain Albertsons, which donated more than $2 million to the campaign.

Washington voters approved a liquor privatization measure in 2011. That ballot initiative was backed by a grocery trade association, a restaurant association and Costco.