Privatized former state liquor store closes

Tumwater site was among 5 in county auctioned off by state after I-1183 passed

rboone@theolympian.comApril 8, 2014 

Mike Ashford of Olympia reacts with surprise as member representative Ryan Mortenson of Rochester explains the $39.99 price tag does not include state taxes - bringing the total to just over $54 - for a bottle of Irish whiskey at the Costco store in Tumwater on Friday, June 1, 2012. Ashford said he was a huge supporter of getting the government out of the liquor business, but was disappointed that the top-end liquors appear to cost the same or slightly more than they did at state-run liquor stores. (TONY OVERMAN/Staff photographer)

TONY OVERMAN — The Olympian Buy Photo

The first of five former state-run liquor stores has closed in Thurston County, almost two years to the day after the state Liquor Control Board auctioned off those stores to private owners.

The victim? Tumwater Liquor & Wine, a store at 5729 Littlerock Road SW.

The owner, Darren Smith, could not be reached Monday. A check of the store’s phone number said it was not in service.

Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board, confirmed Monday that the store has closed, although he did not have information on how long it had been closed.

Carpenter, too, couldn’t speak to the reasons behind the closure, although that area of Tumwater near Trosper Road and Littlerock Road is home to several bigger stores, including Walmart, Fred Meyer, Albertsons and Costco, a big supporter of privatized liquor.

All of those stores earned the right to sell spirits after the passage of Initiative 1183 in fall 2011. Following its passage, the state auctioned off its 167 stores, completing the process in late April 2012.

The winning bidders for the former state-run stores in Thurston County were:

 • Darren Smith, Tumwater store: $111,300.

 • Rivinder Bahia, Hawks Prairie store: $108,100.

 • Kuljinder Sarai, west Olympia store: $125,100.

 • Vijay K. Prasher, Lacey store, $110,200.

 • Andrew and Mike Thielen, Olympia store: $236,100.

In December 2012, Tumwater store owner Smith told The Olympian that business was increasing slowly but steadily.

He said at the time that he was competing for business by offering a wider selection of craft liquor products and retaining the store’s former employees.

But the business, which as a state-run store had wholesale customers, now was competing for that business with liquor distributors selling direct to wholesale customers, such as restaurants and bars.

“It would be better to not have competition, but it’s not realistic,” Smith told The Olympian. “We have to compete in the market, just like anybody else.”

Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403

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