With Initiative 1183′s passage, Snoqualmie Valley grocery stores expect to get into liquor business
November 10, 2011
By Dan Catchpole
With the passage of Initiative 1183, which replaces the state with private retailers in the liquor business, Snoqualmie Valley grocers are considering adding liquor to their stores. At the same time, employees at state-run liquor stores and the businesses that serve them face an uncertain future.
I-1183 allows private stores bigger than 10,000 square feet to begin selling liquor in June. The initiative also allows for some smaller stores in remote areas to sell hard alcohol beverages. It also privatizes distribution of liquor by April. The shift is estimated to net the state and local governments about $80 million annually for the next six years.
The state budgeting office estimates that the number of liquor retailers in Washington will jump from 328 to more than 1,420.
The upper Snoqualmie Valley could see the number of liquor retailers go from the one state-run store in North Bend to three – Safeway, QFC and Snoqualmie Ridge IGA.
The details of selling liquor have to be worked out, but hard alcohol will likely end up in Snoqualmie Ridge IGA, said John Albertson, merchandising manager for Meyers Group, which owns the grocery store.
“We certainly want to be competitive with other grocery stores in the area,” Albertson said.
Some stores already selling liquor will be grandfathered in under I-1183. Those stores include the Fall City store.
Before the election, opponents to I-1183 claimed the measure will make it easier for minors to get alcohol and hurt public safety.
The initiative does not provide more money for the state’s liquor enforcement force.
“Due to the expansion of spirits liquor licenses, we may pursue authorization to hire additional enforcement officers,”
Hard alcohol won’t be out next to peaches or peanut butter at Snoqualmie Ridge IGA. The store, which already sells beer and wine, will make liquor more secure than other alcoholic beverages, Albertson said.
Even after addressing those concerns, adding liquor will boost the bottom lines for grocery stores. I-1183’s main backer, Costco, had no doubts about the economic boost it’s passage would bring, and it poured $22 million into campaigning for the initiative.
“It will be a significant increase in sales,” and that could require more employees at IGA, Albertson said.
Uncertain job future
The slim promise of new jobs at grocery stores is a small consolation to Deanna Riley, manager of the state-run liquor store in North Bend, or her four part-time employees.
“I’m very concerned. I lose my benefits for myself and my family,” Riley said.
The mother of three lives in North Bend with her husband.
State-run stores have 680 full-time employees and 714 hourly employees. Full-time employees receive benefits after working the required number of hours for six months, said Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
The board is still figuring out how to go about shutting down all state stores by June 1, 2012, Smith said.
Distribution of liquor in Washington will be privatized by April 1.
That will mean lay offs at Kent-based Pozzi Trucking, one of four shipping companies delivering liquor to state stores.
The family-owned company could have to cut as many as 12 of its 30 employees, Head Dispatcher Ralph Pozzi said. His father, Tom Pozzi, owns the company.
Cutting workers won’t be easy. Founded in 1919, the company is like an extended family – a quarter of its employees are family, Pozzi said. “It kinda sucks.”
The company is trying to find ways to make up for the lost business, but Pozzi doesn’t expect any of it to come from large, privately-run stores selling liquor. Those stores will likely get deliveries direct from the distilleries.
Dan Catchpole: 396-6434, ext. 246, or firstname.lastname@example.org.