With Initiative 1183’s passage, Snoqualmie Valley grocery stores expect to get into liquor business

November 10, 2011

By Staff

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 editor@snovalleystar.com.

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One Response to “With Initiative 1183’s passage, Snoqualmie Valley grocery stores expect to get into liquor business”

  1. Ryan Burrell on November 12th, 2011 12:51 pm

    It is unfortunate that many of these people will lose their jobs, such as at the Pozzi trucking company. However, in speaking with many people familiar with the situation, including established wine and beer distributors, many people who are in the industry will not lose their jobs.

    I-1183 allows the big companies to negotiate pricing directly with the distillers, but this does not mean they necessarily will bypass distributors. Most large companies simply do not have the time to cut orders and request deliveries to each of their individual locations. Most distillers do not have the necessary infrastructure either. If the distiller, winery, or brewery makes a solid product, the retailer will find a way to get it to their store. They will use a trucking company to get it there.

    A larger variety of small quanitities of wine cannot be efficiently sent through even Costco’s distribution chain. Large companies lack the familiarity with all the different types of wine, and chaos would ensue without the knowledge of distributors.

    Large scale distributors like Odom have already begun the process of seeking volume discounts for large retailers, and they will be delivering the vast quantitiy of it to retailers. The need for distributors will remain unchanged, and many retailers have very close and mutually benefical relationships with these companies.

    It is my hope that trucking companies like Pozzi will be able to use their connections and knowledge of the industry to find a new place in the privatized market. My firm belief is that privitization will ultimately net far more jobs for the state in the long run, and that ultimately smaller wineries, distilleries, and breweries will flourish in the long run.

    While many boutique wineries and distilleries fear the removal of a socialized price structure for their products, I think they will be pleasantly surprised at the new demand for their products, as more retailers will be allowed to carry them, and more shops specializing in their products open up.

    Only time will tell……………

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