More than 20 Kirkland locations may sell hard liquor after June 1

The Totem Lake state-run liquor store is currently up for auction. Bids have reached more than $2,000 with the auction continuing until April 20.  - Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter
The Totem Lake state-run liquor store is currently up for auction. Bids have reached more than $2,000 with the auction continuing until April 20.
— image credit: Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter

The list of stores selling spirits, or hard liquor, after June 1 is growing in Kirkland. Prior to the passage of Initiative 1183 last November, which privatized the sale of spirits in Washington State, the City of Kirkland had just three state-run liquor stores.

According to the State Liquor Control Board, more than 20 locations in Kirkland could be selling spirits after June 1 if the State Supreme Court rejects an appeal by opponents of the initiative.

“We are at 1,220 (new spirit licenses),” said Washington State Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith on Thursday. “We are working a lot of overtime and weekends. It begins as a master business license and is basically a brand new license.”

The new spirit license fee is $166 annually. The new law allows businesses with at least 10,000 square feet of enclosed space to sell spirits. If the business is smaller than 10,000 square feet and is located in a trade area with no other possible outlets, the state can make exceptions.

Some of the large retailers in Kirkland that have applied for a spirits liquor license during the past month are the Metropolitan Market, Bartell Drugs, Walgreens and Red Apple Market. Albertsons, Costco, Fred Meyer, QFC, Rite Aid and Safeway previously submitted applications for spirit licenses.

The state also launched its online auction of 167 state-run stores on March 15.

“We have been surprised at the initial volume (of bids),” said Smith.

The stores are up for auction individually and collectively at the same time.

“The initiative charges us with getting the maximum reasonable value for the stores,” said Smith.

The auction website shows that the stores as a whole have 35 bids as of March 28, with the high bid at $551,000.

Kirkland has three state-run liquor stores and all currently have bids in the individual store auctions. As of March 28, store 57, located at 10609 N.E. 68th St. in the Houghton Neighborhood, has seven bids with the high bid at just over $6,600.

Store 192, located at 11220 N.E. 124th St. in the Totem Lake Neighborhood, has 16 bids and is at $2,325. Store 155, located at 10042 N.E. 137th St. in the Juanita Neighborhood, has 12 bids at just $3,050. All auctions end April 20.

Kirkland also has one of the 163 privately operated liquor stores in the state, which opened last month in the Rose Hill Neighborhood at 12644 85th St. N.E., and it is not up for auction.

“What most people do not understand is that half of (the liquor stores in Washington State) are privately owned,” said Smith.

The private businesses are paid a commission to sell spirits. Those stores, many of which are in rural locations and are under the 10,000 square foot threshold demanded by the initiative, will be grandfathered in after the initiative takes effect.

“That store was probably in the process for some time,” said Smith of the Rose Hill store. “Right now, that is our liquor he is selling and we are paying him a commission. Come June 1 he will be independent.”

While the business community is preparing for the shift, opponents of the initiative still have hopes of stopping the law. A Cowlitz County judge reversed his previous decision that the initiative covered two issues. Initiatives in Washington State have to pertain to a “single subject.”

That ruling put the passage of the initiative in jeopardy. But on March 19, Superior Court Judge Stephen Warning ruled that the privatization of the sales of spirits and the initiative’s provision to set aside $10 million for public safety, does not constitute two separate subjects.

“There is a well-established, albeit negative, relationship between public safety and liquor,” Warning said.

The rare reversal of his own decision stunned the opposition.

State Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office argued in favor of the initiative.

“Washington voters said they supported privatizing liquor sales in our state and directing $10 million of the proceeds from those sales to enhanced public safety. Today’s court ruling allows the state to continue to work to implement their directive,” said McKenna in a press release.

In Warning’s earlier ruling, he found the initiative violated a state rule prohibiting initiatives from addressing more than one subject — also known as the “single-subject” rule — because it included the section directing $10 million of the liquor revolving fund proceeds to public safety.

Opponents argued that the two issues are separate and will bring that argument to the State Supreme Court in a final appeal.


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