Liquor sales went private Friday

Washington state private liquor sales begin today, but several area stores have been gearing up for weeks. - Kevan Moore/Staff photo
Washington state private liquor sales begin today, but several area stores have been gearing up for weeks.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/Staff photo

Washington state private liquor sales began Friday, but several area stores had been gearing up for weeks.

At the Safeway in Silverdale, the shelves in Aisle 2 were stocked with a plethora of booze bottles and shielded with see-through “NOT YET. (BUT SOON)” drapes for several weeks leading up to Friday's statewide opening of retail liquor sales.

“We have had some customers actually, while we were stocking it, try to purchase a bottle or two,” longtime Safeway manger Duane Vickery said. “But, of course, all of our scanners have it all locked out so they couldn’t actually make the purchase.”

While many are bracing for steep price hikes associated with private sales, Vickery said that he hasn’t gotten many questions in that regard.

“We haven’t actually ran across that yet,” Vickery said. “We realize that the legislation calls for increased taxes on the liquor, so we’ll be relaying that information to our cashiers to let customers know. The only questions I’ve had from customers is about when they will be able to purchase it.”

Vickery said that the reason behind a lack of questions having to do with price points is probably two-fold. One, the liquor wasn't up for sale until June 1 and secondly, final pricing had not yet been announced.

Voters approved Initiative 1183 last fall, allowing stores larger than 10,000 square feet and some smaller stores to sell liquor. As part of the initiative, the state imposed a 10 percent distributor fee and a 17 percent retail fee on spirits to reimburse the state for millions of dollars of lost revenue.

The major discount wholesaler in the state, Costco, spent more than $20 million statewide to lobby in support of Initiative 1183.

A few shoppers at the store earlier this week seemed to be taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to private retail sales and what that might mean for changes in cost.

“There will be some special pricing out of the gate and we will have additional lobby displays above and beyond what is already on the shelves,” Vickery said. “Of course, we’re not going to display liquor by the front door and will be taking precautionary measures in that regard to meet state law and maintain standards within the company.”

Vickery said that the store’s liquor area will be staffed with a beverage manager and an already in-place wine steward to keep an eye on the adult beverages and to assist customers.

When it comes to existing wine and beer sales at the Silverdale store, not to mention the prospect of profitable liquor sales now that it is legal, Vickery is optimistic.

“It’s one of our categories within the store and traditionally it does well in good times and it does good in bad economic times, too,” he said. “The people like their drinks, I guess.”


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