14 liquor stores to close Thursday
As employees leave for other jobs, the Washington State Liquor Control Board says it must close 14 liquor stores, most of them in the Puget Sound area.
Seattle Times business reporter
The Washington State Liquor Control Board said Tuesday it will close 14 liquor stores early and redeploy their employees — about 60 in all — to fill job vacancies at some of its other locations.
Officials said the move is necessary because the state's liquor stores are struggling to replace employees who leave for new jobs as Washington prepares to get out of the booze business.
The closures, which take effect Thursday, will leave Washington with 153 state-run liquor stores until June 1. That's when the state is set to privatize the liquor retail industry in Washington under voter-approved Initiative 1183.
The announced closures came a day after the Liquor Control Board released the results of a public auction of the state's 167 liquor stores. All 14 of the closing stores were sold at auction and remain on track to be transferred to private control in June, said board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter.
In choosing store closures, board officials said they identified locations where there would be minimal disruption. The board has been staffing the state's liquor stores with temporary workers since December and now must "re-appropriate" employees to address the shortages, officials said.
Most of the 14 stores are in the Puget Sound area, including one each in downtown Seattle, the Magnolia and Northgate neighborhoods, South Seattle, Bothell, Federal Way, Mercer Island, Tacoma, Lacey, and the Eastgate area of Bellevue.
Board officials said they considered the proximity of other liquor stores and how well they could accommodate an influx of new customers from the shuttered locations. They said the closing stores were not among the state's best or worst performing locations in terms of sales but somewhere in the middle.
The board said Monday that the online auction for Washington's 167 state-run liquor stores brought in nearly $31 million. About 120 entrepreneurs who cast winning bids get exclusive rights to apply for liquor licenses at each store's current location; they still must buy inventory and make lease arrangements.
The 167 properties, plus 162 owned by entrepreneurs under contract with the state, will be exempt from the new law, which allows only stores measuring 10,000 square feet or more to sell spirits.
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