The Commons mall welcomes liquor for the holidays

The Commons mall now offers customers a chance to purchase spirits throughout the holiday season.

A liquor and wine specialty store, operated by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, will open inside the mall Nov. 1. Hard alcohol, wine, gift packages and alcohol-based chocolates and eggnogs are available through Dec. 31. The store is open seven days a week during regular mall hours and is located in the main concourse near Macy's. The store is expected to offer convenience to customers, while generating revenue for the mall's tenants and the state.

"We think it will be an added service," said Gary Martindale, The Commons general manager.

Federal Way is one of four state-wide locations chosen by the state liquor control board to carry out the pilot project. Stores are also open at Alderwood mall in Lynnwood, Bellis Fair mall in Bellingham and Pacific Place shopping center in Seattle.

The specialty stores will help close the state's nearly $9 billion (through mid-biennium 2011) budget gap, said Brian Smith, Washington State Liquor Control Board spokesman. The state hopes to generate $3.8 million in revenue over the next two years from the endeavor.

"The liquor control board is one of the very few state agencies to generate funds," Smith said.

The pilot project also introduces a chance for the liquor control board to expand its customer base. Historically, the board has taken a moderate approach to fostering that growth, he said.

The stores emphasize high-end products and gift packages. They offer a variety of selections, but about a tenth of the merchandise. Holiday favorites, such as Bailey's Irish Cream and Peppermint Schnapps, are the focus, Smith said.

"We're looking to reach some of today's customer environment, where they want to be able to have convenience," he said.

Precautions are being taken to ensure the stores are presented tastefully, Smith said. Window displays do not feature brand advertising and signage does not face the mall thoroughfare. Stores are stationed away from food courts and areas that attract children, Smith said.

There are no reservations about allowing the liquor store to operate in the mall, Martindale said. When he managed the Lakewood mall, a similar store was on location. Martindale noted the Lakewood mall is not an enclosed structure, but said he does not expect that to make a difference in Federal Way.

"I've never ever had an issue with it," he said.

The board will operate liquor specialty shops inside Washington malls next year as well, Smith said. There is no guarantee the four locations chosen this holiday season will again feature the stores next year, he said.

This year's locations were dependent on mall managements' interest in the stores, proximity to other state-operated liquor stores, location of the mall and leasing costs, Smith said.

If all goes well this holiday season, The Commons is likely to welcome a similar store next year, Martindale said. Following the pilot project's conclusion, state officials will decide if they wish to continue offering liquor inside Washington malls, Smith said.

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