Costco gas prices VA

Costco sells cheap gas, but with controversy
June 6, 2016 – 09:00 am

There is no cheaper gasoline to be had these days, at least in the District of Columbia.

And so the cars have lined up in a remote corner of Northeast Washington, a half-dozen deep on a recent Sunday afternoon, waiting to pull up to one of 16 pumps selling 87 octane at $2.99 a gallon.

Drivers might assume that they are buying their gas from Costco — the pumps, which opened in September, are less than 500 feet across a parking lot from the doors of the warehouse retailer’s only D.C. outlet. Buyers must be Costco members, and the “GASOLINE” sign on the canopy is rendered in the same type style as the Costco logo.

In fact, they are not. Nowhere at the station does the word “Costco” appear, and receipts issued at the pumps indicate that drivers are buying their gas from “CWC WDC.”

The branding discrepancy is an indication of the gas station’s tortuous history, a battle that has stretched nearly two years and has a retail giant going up against the city’s largest owner of gas stations.

The dispute pits claims of an unfair corporate loophole against allegations of anti-competitive behavior intended to protect high gas prices. It has involved some of the city’s top law and lobbying firms and has played out before community groups, a zoning board, liquor licensing authorities, the courts and now the D.C. Council. It has included, besides reams of paper and hours of hearings, insinuations of illicit payoffs and allegations of death threats.

“This is serious, serious business, ” said Bob King, a veteran civic activist who lives in the neighboring Fort Lincoln neighborhood and supports the gas station. “If this was done back in the ’40s, blood would be everywhere. There would be a shootout at Bladensburg Road just like the shootout at the O.K. Corral.”

The fight’s roots go back three decades, to a 1983 D.C. law meant to discourage drunken driving by prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages at places selling gasoline. Because the Costco, which opened off New York Avenue last November, sells beer, wine and spirits, it is not permitted to sell gas — as all but three of the 22 Costco stores in the District, Maryland and Virginia do.

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