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Originally published November 8, 2012 at 2:23 PM | Page modified November 9, 2012 at 12:17 PM

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Former contract liquor stores sue state

The owners of 11 liquor stores say the state owes them losses of $7.5 million because of the way it handled the transition to private liquor sales.

Seattle Times business reporter

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The owners of 11 stores that sold liquor under contract with the Washington State Liquor Control Board are suing the state, saying it owes them an estimated $7.5 million for losses they incurred because of the way the state handled the June 1 transition to private liquor sales.

In many cases, the lawsuit in Thurston County Superior Court says, stores are suffering because of a 17 percent fee they must pay when selling liquor to bars and restaurants. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Kevin Roberts of the Spokane firm Dunn & Black, said the state initially said it did not anticipate charging that fee for such transactions, and that some store owners decided to stay in the business based on that information.

Mary Tennyson, the senior assistant attorney general who works with the Liquor Control Board, said she has not seen the lawsuit.

But, she said, the contracts that independent liquor-store owners had with the state “provided for termination if the state no longer has the authority to sell liquor. The 17 percent fee is being applied the way the statute requires, Tennyson said.

The state’s craft distilleries obtained a statutory change from the legislature that exempts their on-premises sales from the 17 percent fee.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Twitter @AllisonSeattle.

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