Peninsula liquor store managers try to keep spirits high in wake of privatization vote
Greg Munson, who has run the state liquor store in Forks for nearly four decades, is contemplating retirement when Initiative 1183 to privatize hard liquor sales takes effect in June. -- Photo by Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News
Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Jean Morris, who has managed the Quilcene liquor store for 36 years, is unsure how the passage of Initiative 1183 will affect her.
Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Customer Joe Jester of Port Angeles stands in front of the state-operated liquor store in Port Angeles on Wednesday after voters approved a measure to allow package liquor to be sold in grocery and warehouse stores in Washington.
By Tom Callis and Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Munson, 65, will be one of the 325 liquor store managers in the state who will have to close up shop or apply for a liquor license by June 1 because of the voter passage Tuesday of Initiative 1183, which gets the state out of the liquor business.
“I didn’t think much of it two to three weeks ago,” he said. “It’s kind of a surprise.”
The new law, which received 60 percent of the statewide vote and which comes into effect June 1, allows retailers larger than 10,000 square feet to sell liquor.
Liquor can also be sold at existing liquor store sites, which otherwise don’t meet the minimum-size requirement.
There are eight stores now on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The seven others are located in Clallam Bay, Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend, Brinnon, Port Hadlock and Quilcene.
Munson said he has not decided whether he will apply for a license, adding that he may decide to retire instead.
Kathryn Debernardi, who has owned and operated a store in Port Hadlock, said she is uncertain of her future and that of the store.
“I’ve read the initiative several times, and there are still so many unanswered questions that I can’t even begin to work on a business plan,” she said.
Tammy Hull, manager of the liquor store in Clallam Bay, also said it’s a “very good possibility” that she will seek a license to continue to stay in business.
But she said she still has her reservations.
“I’m not happy about it,” Hull said of the initiative passing.
“My issue about it is it’s such a gray situation.”
Port Townsend’s liquor store manager, Dick Lingafelter, said he didn’t know if he would seek a license.
Jean Morris, manager of the store in Quilcene, was also unsure.
Morris owns the building and would have to purchase the inventory but said she would most likely return her current stock and develop an inventory more compatible with Quilcene’s tastes.
Currently, the state controls what she sells, she said, and there are several liqueurs and high-end products that she would probably stop carrying.
Morris said her customers’ tastes gravitate toward whisky and vodka.
Managers of the Port Angeles and Sequim stores declined to comment.
The state said more than 900 state employees will lose their jobs as a result of the initiative.
But those aren’t the only jobs at risk.
Puget Sound Transfer in Port Angeles will lose a third of its business when the law goes into effect, said manager Eric Flodstrom in an email.
Flodstrom said the company distributes liquor to 48 stores from Gig Harbor to Clallam Bay and 12 stores in Seattle.
“It is disheartening to have this hard work wiped away by a vote and no fault of our own,” he said.
Flodstrom said liquor distribution will end up being handled by larger companies and the retailers’ own distribution systems.
In regard to layoffs, he said, “I’ll know more in January.”
One thing is certain about the initiative: Liquor will become more accessible on the Peninsula.
And that’s a good thing, said Joe Jester, 57, of Port Angeles after he had made a purchase at the Port Angeles liquor store.
“I’m sorry for those who are going to lose their jobs but it’s great for the state,” he said, referring to the possibility of increased revenue with higher consumption.
Costco, which has a location in Sequim and threw $22 million into a campaign supporting the initiative, plans to carry it and so does Safeway, which has four locations in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Sheila Jones, Walmart district manager for Clallam, Mason, Grays Harbor, Jefferson and Kitsap counties, said the large retailer has yet to announce a decision on whether to sell liquor.
Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at email@example.com.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: November 13. 2011 12:25PM