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Private liquor sales, at higher prices, begin June 1
With the initiative to privatize Washington liquor sales going into effect June 1, consumers can expect to pay higher prices while the state generates more money than before.
“No one knows what the actual prices are going to be,” said Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board. “The marketplace is going to set that. If you look at what the state marks up a bottle of liquor now based on its price at minimum, the distributors and retailers will mark it up at minimum to what the state is now, and mark it up to 20 percent higher.”
The process of implementing Initiative 1183, which passed in 2011, has included the creation of a license for retailers who want to sell liquor, and auctioning off the right to sell liquor in a store that's less than 100 square feet, said Mikahil Carpenter, spokesman with Liquor Control Board.
The two auctions took place in April and late May.
Both Federal Way liquor stores were purchased during the first auction. Terry Nguyen bought the rights to the store on SW 336th Street for $100,101. Kulbir Singh purchased the Pacific Highway store for $250,100.
"I'm going to try to keep (the products) as low as possible price-wise," Nguyen said, noting that the cost has to go up no matter what because of the tax increase. "Hopefully it's going to go well."
The state will bring in more money from the sale of liquor now that liquor has been privatized. Smith said a fiscal analysis from the state budget office projected that more money will be made from liquor sales after the initiative takes effect than was made under the previous system. Heightened sales are expected as a result of the larger number of liquor outlets, as well as the fees, he said.
As part of the transition in implementing I-1183, the state-run stores are being systematically shut down and re-opened under private ownership.
While other stores have been closed in the days leading up to the deadline, only 36 state liquor stores will be open June 1, including Federal Way’s store on Pacific Highway, according to the Liquor Control Board.
The total number of liquor outlets in the state will go from 328 to more than 1,500, Smith said. In addition, the state-run liquor outlets will go from having 1,400 employees to about 200.
A number of those employees might be rehired by the new management at the private stores, Carpenter said. In a lot of cases, the new owners are hiring the staff who worked at them previously.
“I’m glad to keep everyone,” Nguyen said. “I want to keep everything the same as much as possible, including the staff and the manager there."