With some of the largest 2011 general election issues already decided in the first dump of data from elections officials, there’s one extremely important question likely on your mind.
The boozy question has implications not just for CHS’s next cantaloupe daiquiri but for the many bars and restaurants of the Hill’s food and drink economy that currently receive shipments through the stores or swing by for piecemeal additions to their inventories.
Initiative 1183, Costco-backed and with the state’s liquor system in its crosshairs, has been declared a winner. By June, the Seattle Times reports, ”the state Liquor Control Board will wind down its liquor business, including selling its inventory and Seattle distribution center, and auctioning off state-run liquor stores.”
Yes, Capitol Hill, those auctions will include the stores at 400 Broadway E and at 12th and Pine – the sites of so many happy memories. Both of Capitol Hill’s liquor stores are operated by the state and would be part of the, um, liquidation.
Per the initiative’s line items, locations of former state-run stores would be grandfathered in as legal locations to operate private liquor stores even if they aren’t large enough to meet 1183′s 10,000 square-foot provision.
The 400 Broadway E location is leased in a retail space owned by Pano Properties, LLC that also houses Pho Cyclo. The less than 3,000-square foot space could, indeed, host a boutique liquor shop if an entrepreneur wanted to make a go of it. A more likely future is a corner store, a cafe or an expanded Pho Cyclo.
The 12th Ave location is a different beast. Owned by Richmark Label which operates an adjoining space, the 6,400 square-foot store could be sucked into the industrial space if no entities come forward interested in operating a private liquor store at the location.
The shuttering of the stores or takeovers by an ambitious and possibly foolhardy entrepreneurs willing to go toe to toe on price with the likes of Safeway aren’t the only significant alcohol retail changes for the Hill.
For one, grocery stores in the area will be overhauled for the new inventories and security will likely be expanded and increased. For some like 15th Ave E’s QFC, already limited space could be even further pinched by the irresistible profit margins.
More interesting could be the changes enabled by 1183′s approval that could improve the economic prospects for Capitol Hill’s craft spirit producers like Oola Distillery and Sun Liquor Distillery. While many fear that the Kirkland Signature Brand-ization of booze will damage the budding businesses, the initiative does make it easier for the distilleries to sell their product directly to buyers and will hopefully clarify the playing field for these start-ups where things are, at best, still murky. Just ask a Sun bartender why the new bar and distillery on E Pike has two doors the next time you’re in.
Starting in June, Oola and Sun can cut much of the state out of their sales process — currently, the crafters are required to adhere to the state’s pricing and, for all intents and purposes, purchase their product for re-sale. For Oola, already on the hook to move thousands of bottles of gin and vodka per month to break even, being able to manage their inventory independently could be the difference in achieving a sustainable margin. Meanwhile, at Sun, they’ll have the same opportunity — and, maybe, they can cut a door from the process, too.