Stressed small liquor sellers may lose licenses

The Associated PressOctober 29, 2013 

SPOKANE — Competition from big-box stores and grocery chains that offer cheaper booze has 22 small liquor stores in Washington in danger of losing their licenses because they have fallen behind in paying taxes and fees, a newspaper said Monday.

Owners of the troubled stores said they have difficulty competing with bigger stores that are better able to spread the taxes and fees among other items, The Spokesman-Review reported Monday.

Washington state voters approved Initiative 1183 in 2011, allowing sales outside state-operated liquor stores. As part of the change, the state imposed new fees on spirits to make up for its lost revenue.

The owners of Colville Liquor & Wine and Deer Park Liquor & Wine say they’re behind in payments of a new 17 percent licensing fee on all liquor sales. That fee is on top of the 10 percent excise tax.

Both owners say they have a hard time competing against chain stores that can spread those taxes and fees to other products and offer lower prices for liquor. In addition, bigger retailers get discounts from liquor distributors for bulk purchases that aren’t available to small stores.

Linda Thrasher, the Deer Park owner, said she owes about $14,000 for sales taxes, plus $10,000 for the 17 percent surcharge.

Aditi Sood, co-owner of Colville Liquor & Wine, didn’t disclose the amount owed to the state but said it was significant.

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