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Liquor at the grocery store

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lavaca Jun 1, 2012 11:01 PM

What have you discovered so far in the brave new world of privatized liquor stores? I don't expect that the average QFC or Safeway will put too much effort into hunting down obscure bottles of rye whiskey, but surely there are some stores out there that are trying harder than others.

Today I was told that the Queen Anne Trader Joe's will not be selling liquor. However, the Lower Queen Anne Metropolitan Market has a wide variety of products from the Northwest. Aside from that, they definitely seem to favor some spirits over others (if you don't like clear liquors, you'd better like Scotch or tequila).

It seems like many/most of the former WSLCB stores will re-open in the same location, at least in Seattle. Have any of them opened up again yet?

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  1. gingershelley Jun 2, 2012 09:58 AM

    So far, what I understand is supposed to be (by their accounts) the largest variety and deepest selection of liquor is at Wine World just West of I-5 at 45th in Wallingford.

    Haven't checked it out in person yet, but I get their emails. I buy wine there fairly regularly, and the store is HUGE allready, with what appears a well-planned liquor roll-out.

    Here is a link: http://wineworldspirits.com/selection...

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    1. kaleokahu Jun 2, 2012 11:03 AM

      Discoveries: (1) To avoid stickershock/budget woes, remember to add 20% to the hangtag price. (2) Thanks to Costco, liquor is now generally more expensive.

      Aloha,
      Kleo

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        acgold7 Jun 2, 2012 11:25 AM

        Can you explain (2)? I thought prices were supposed to go down.

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        1. re: acgold7
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          grangie angie Jun 2, 2012 12:31 PM

          Just paid $2.00 more for same bottle of Vodka I used to buy at WSLCB.....and that was

          with my Safeway Club card discount !!
          It's the additional taxes that are now jacking up the price!

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          1. re: grangie angie
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            acgold7 Jun 2, 2012 01:15 PM

            Interesting. All the objective (i.e. non-partisan) analysis during the election said that while the taxes were different, they weren't supposed to be any higher overall, or even if they went up a bit they were supposed to be offset by lower product prices by eliminating the distributors' fees. Guess it didn't work out that way.

            Will be interested to see a wider sample over time to see what actually happens, especially with prices at Costco rather than full-price retailers.

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            1. re: grangie angie
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              mrnelso Jun 10, 2012 01:44 PM

              WAS:
              Product cost + labor cost + taxes
              Now:
              Product cost + labor cost + taxes + profit
              No confusion.
              (By the way, they have no taxes in Afghanistan, in case you feel a need to reject society)

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              1. re: mrnelso
                The Chowhound Team Jun 11, 2012 01:13 PM

                Hey, folks -- we understand that it's all related to the privatization issue, but the discussion here is getting pretty far afield from the question of what you can actually find where and how much it will cost. We've removed some of the more far-reaching debate and would ask that people refocus the conversation. Thanks.

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            2. re: acgold7
              kaleokahu Jun 3, 2012 09:34 AM

              Hi, acgold:

              The tax markup of the tag price, according to the grocery store manager I talked with yesterday when buying, is 23%. While this store is huge (Walmart), there are also the following problems:

              (3) the selection is abysmally small--e.g., nothing you'd want or need to cook with;
              (4) any bottles >$30 are kept in a totally different location behind one checkout counter (selection also tiny);
              (5) all but the most budget bottles have the alarmed anti-shoplifting/party cap that can only be removed with a special key. Our clerk didn't remove this, my wife missed the alarm going off when she exited the store, I set off the alarm a second time re-entering the store, and had to wait in a long line to have Customer Service remove the cap.
              (6) there is *nothing* to prevent a customer from opening a sleeve of plastic cups, filling one with booze, ice and mixer, and turning the store into a self-serve satellite Bourbon Street while shopping (an option I considered after #5 supra).

              I voted for this privatization Initiative, but so far I think it's an experiment that's already failing. I imagine that the only places that will have decent selections will be the few specialty liquor stores. Every place else is likely to be on the "dumbed down/limited" Costco model. What a PITA.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

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              1. re: kaleokahu
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                GreenYoshi Jun 3, 2012 11:37 AM

                How about giving it more than 2 days before passing judgement?
                I think many stores underestimated demand (thus the many bare shelves) and didn't have the data to understand both what to sell and what price to sell at.

                Give them a little time to adjust pricing, figure out policies and to figure out how to sell this entirely new product line.

                (also, maybe don't shop at Wal-Mart if you're looking for any sort of customer service...)

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                1. re: GreenYoshi
                  kaleokahu Jun 3, 2012 08:37 PM

                  Hey, GY:

                  Sure, I'll give the system some time... considering that's everyone's only option at this point.

                  Underestimated demand? Really? My guess was a supply limitation. But frankly, every private licensee I've been in has short shelves that couldn't *possibly* hold the selection of even the most rural WSLCB store. Not that I must have Goldschlager, but when I need basic Chartreuse green, where do I go?

                  We differ on Walmart, I guess--I think the only thing Wallyworld has going for it (besides that delicious carbon-monoxized meat) *is* customer service.

                  My prediction: This transition is going to be a bumpier ride than most voters were led to believe. I hope I'm wrong.

                  Aloha,
                  Kaleo

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                2. re: kaleokahu
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                  FoodDee Jun 3, 2012 11:53 AM

                  I shopped in CA for many years - no State Liquor. Walmart and most chain grocery stores were never known for their selection. We shopped at Costco for good deals on what they did carry, especially the Kirkland Brand products and then Bev Mo and specialty shops for other high end or specialty items. I think shopping for spirits in Washington will now be the same as it has been for shopping for wine - I don't expect to find high end wines at Walmart.

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                  1. re: kaleokahu
                    hill food Jun 10, 2012 11:33 PM

                    k - weird, as where I am WallyWorld only security tags the cheap stuff and I've joked with the clerk "if I was gonna boost something I'd go for the top shelf stuff"

                    in the ABC-type states I've lived in that have gone private, after time the market dictates, the prices come down and even out.

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                    1. re: hill food
                      kaleokahu Jun 11, 2012 06:11 PM

                      Hi, hill:

                      Well, when I was in WallyWorld, they didn't *have* anything but the "cheap" stuff. ;)

                      Did the other ABC states have something like the 10K sq. ft rule?

                      Aloha,
                      Kaleo

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                      1. re: kaleokahu
                        hill food Jun 12, 2012 12:59 AM

                        yeah Wally doesn't stock much truly good

                        the ABC's were always smallish but I really wasn't paying attention. 10K sounds kind of big now that I think of it.

                        in KS we had half 'n' half stores (one side liquor, one side mixer, same clerk, 2 transactions) dinky. in VA the only wine they sold was local (no thx) and maybe 1K SF max. all had weird hours, no signage. one needed to feel a 'splashy-sense' tingling. I recall in those and the WA State ones the staff viewed the consumer with suspicion and judgment (yeah like I'm gonna crack and guzzle right here)

                        made me miss East St. Louis (as unlikely a statement that is) 24/7 baby in a shifty nabe!

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                        1. re: hill food
                          MsMaryMc Jun 12, 2012 08:48 AM

                          I don't think that feeling you got from the Washington state stores was an accident. The state-run system seemed to be designed to protect the Good People of Washington from the Scourge of Demon Rum. The idea wasn't to sell liquor--it was to grudgingly make it available, with as many limits and inconveniences as possible, so as to minimize the amount that actually got out there. Popular attitudes toward alcohol might have evolved since Prohibition, but the rules and structure of the state system was stuck in that old mindset.

                          At least the private operators have actual motivation to sell product, and to figure out the most attractive and effective ways to do so (legally).

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                          1. re: MsMaryMc
                            kaleokahu Jun 12, 2012 01:07 PM

                            Hi, MMM:

                            Among other things, I'm a winemaker, so I completely understand your take on the lingering effects of a Prohibition mindset (the "C" in WSLCB).

                            But I must take issue with your "as many limits and inconveniences as possible" remark, as well as your implication that the State was just as hostile to alcohol sales in 2012 as it was 80 years ago. That is simply untrue; there has been a clear and substantial (belated, yes; steady, no) evolution toward a neutral moral stance on both the control and sale of alcohol.

                            For instance, it used to be that you could not be a bonded winery if *anyone* with any financial stake in the business also held *any* ownership interest in a retailer (e.g., owned Costco stock). This went by the wayside awhile back, as did many other outmoded restrictions like dumb tasting room regulations. My recent experience has been that WSLCB is indeed interested in helping state producers do well with sales, because it benefits everyone.

                            So it's not an absolutist Temperance vs. Free Market comparison at all.

                            Aloha,
                            Kaleo

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                            1. re: kaleokahu
                              MsMaryMc Jun 12, 2012 02:42 PM

                              Clearly the state loosened up some before they got out of the liquor business entirely. I remember very well the first time after I moved here that I decided to make a rum cake or some such on a Sunday afternoon, and headed out the door to pick up a bottle of rum--until my husband said, uh, you're going to have a long drive to find that for sale on a Sunday...* At least they dropped that silly restriction a few years back. But overall, in comparison to states with private sales, the whole system still seemed to me to be based on that control model, rather than a sell-within-the-legal-limits model.

                              YMMV, of course, as always. But that was my perception and my experience.

                              * Part of my frustration with the old laws was that I don't think they had much impact on most "problem" drinkers--the alcoholics, the habitual DUI's. A serious drinker is going to make damned sure that they have enough on hand before the stores close. It's the casual, let's-make-a-rum cake, hey-a-blender-of-margaritas-would-sure-be-nice-this-afternoon consumers, who don't put such priority and forethought into acquiring booze within the permitted hours, who were inconvenienced.

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                              1. re: MsMaryMc
                                kaleokahu Jun 12, 2012 04:15 PM

                                Hi, MMM: "Part of my frustration with the old laws was that I don't think they had much impact on most "problem" drinkers--the alcoholics, the habitual DUI's."

                                I'm sorry, I must be slow today... How is the current private regime *better* impacting problem drinkers?

                                I get the advantage of being able to buy rum for a cake if you want to bake one on Sunday evening or at 2am. You'll be able to find that. But what about something like Creme de Minth or de Bananna *anytime*?

                                Aloha,
                                Kaleo

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                                1. re: kaleokahu
                                  MsMaryMc Jun 12, 2012 04:55 PM

                                  "Hi, MMM: "Part of my frustration with the old laws was that I don't think they had much impact on most "problem" drinkers--the alcoholics, the habitual DUI's."

                                  I'm sorry, I must be slow today... How is the current private regime *better* impacting problem drinkers?"

                                  I didn't say the new laws are any improvement for dealing with problem drinkers. I just said that the old laws didn't seem very effective at that.

                                  A common justification (implied or stated) of the old state-run system was to better control alcohol and limit the damage done by "problem" drinkers. My experience was that they didn't seem to do that very well at all--they only inconvenienced people who weren't serious enough about their liquor to plan ahead or keep a lot of it around.

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                                  1. re: MsMaryMc
                                    hill food Jun 12, 2012 08:56 PM

                                    oh yeah if there's a problem, one is thinking 3 days ahead not 3 hours. sneaky sneaky. legal hours are not going to limit it. folks just get crafty, stock up and re-sell off-hours for a profit. but I'm going off OT

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                3. re: kaleokahu
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                  hawkeyeui93 Jun 4, 2012 04:27 PM

                  kaleo: Funny you should say that because I am in a liquor control state [Iowa] and Costco and Sam's Club sell booze for upwards to 25 percent less than my local liquor stores.

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                  1. re: hawkeyeui93
                    kaleokahu Jun 4, 2012 08:45 PM

                    Hi, hawkeyeui93:

                    I'm sorry, we provincials are new to all this privatization (I'm sure Costco Police & Fire is next). Is Iowa *both* a liquor control state *and* with chain retailers?

                    As for being more expensive, perhaps that will even out or settle down. But we have evidence here, in the early hours, of price gouging, and so far prices are higher.

                    Aloha,
                    Kaleo

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                    1. re: kaleokahu
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                      hawkeyeui93 Jun 4, 2012 08:55 PM

                      kaleo: I cannot answer your question, but the sense I get is that Costco/Sam's Club is outside of the control of the State of Iowa's Alcoholic Beverage Division ... I bet once you have a few large, independent liquor stores open in your state, prices will lower all around.

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                4. terrier Jun 2, 2012 02:18 PM

                  What used to be the state's "premium" store down in West Seattle has reopened. It is considerably less expensive than the prices upstairs in QFC, but it is still more expensive than the old state store prices once you add the 20% + $3.88 per liter taxes that are not on the shelf tags but get added at the register. (Liquor pricing here is now like rental car or hotel room service prices - what you see is not what you get.)

                  The initiative was written to privatize the profits of the former state stores while being revenue-neutral for the state. It seemed pretty self-evident to me that there would be no incentive for prices to go down for anything but e.g. bacardi bought in bulk. So it has come to pass.

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                  1. re: terrier
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                    equinoise Jun 4, 2012 01:31 PM

                    What I supposed--or hoped--was that the incentive for prices to go down would result from inter-store price competition. On 5/31 the Seattle Times had this: " '(Wholesalers) know this is their time to price gouge because competition in the marketplace is going to force prices down," said Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, which represents Costco and other grocery stores.' " I assume that this was a preemptive defensive from the grocers, who may also have been ancipating consumer backlash once they printed their first liquor receipts. To me it seems most likely that both the distributors and the grocers built a gouge factor into their initial pricing, given the confusion that would inevitably flow from the new taxes.

                    I still hold out hope that prices will shake down as supply and demand level out. If not, I assume it's now easier to order online from DrinkUpNY, etc?

                    In other news, I noticed an abysmal selection and vacant shelves at the Mercer Island QFC, together with numerous shelf-talkers warning about the taxes not being factored in. That store always had a mediocre at best wine selection, so I won't expect the liquor to exceed it.

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                    1. re: equinoise
                      MsMaryMc Jun 4, 2012 02:08 PM

                      I might be wrong, but I think we can order hard liquor online now. I was looking at an online vendor site the other day and they no longer list Washington as a state they can't ship to, like they used to. I wonder, is that only the sellers who've gotten themselves a Washington license? Or is it any liquor vendor able to sell and ship here now? Anybody know?

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                      1. re: MsMaryMc
                        L.Nightshade Jun 7, 2012 08:39 AM

                        I've been ordering liquor online for a while, just for the obscure stuff. Hadn't found any restrictions on WA. Now I'm planning on ordering from NY for the regular stuff also. Even with shipping included, the prices are about half of what I've paid here so far.

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                        1. re: L.Nightshade
                          MsMaryMc Jun 7, 2012 08:46 AM

                          Interesting...a few years ago I found a place in California that specialized in mini-bottles--they had stuff I'd never dreamed you could get that way. i ordered a whole bunch of good whiskeys for my husband's Christmas stocking. They emailed me and said, sorry, it's illegal for us to ship to Washington. I went back and, sure enough, we were on the list of no-go states on their website.

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                          1. re: MsMaryMc
                            L.Nightshade Jun 7, 2012 08:54 AM

                            Yeah, I've actually found that with California sellers too. Don't know why NY didn't have a problem with it!

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                          2. re: L.Nightshade
                            gingershelley Jun 13, 2012 11:16 AM

                            Linda, where do order from? I think with sticker shock in full swing now, I want to start buying online as well. Help?

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                            1. re: gingershelley
                              kaleokahu Jun 13, 2012 01:13 PM

                              Here's an interesting question: If we can buy online and take delivery via FedEx, UPS, etc., can we have liquor delivered by say, AmazonFresh or Safeway?

                              Aloha,
                              Kaleo

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                              1. re: gingershelley
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                                Gizmo56 Jun 14, 2012 07:48 PM

                                Here is my understanding, others should correct me if I am wrong.

                                I believe that law allows shipments of wine from out-of-state retailers, but forbids the shipment of spirits. As far as I know, that did not change on June 1. However, not all on-line retailers seem to have properly classified which states they can ship to, and you will occasionally find one that has not blocked Washington state addresses in their software. I have a few some small batch ryes that I could not find here from one such retailer. I am frustrated, because they don't carry one label I'd really like to try, which many other online sources do carry, but the others won't ship to Washington.

                                It is ironic that one effect of the initiative's passage is incentivizing Washingtonians to spend their liquor dollars in other states, due to the suddenly higher prices and more limited selection here. I guess now we are being driven to helping the economies of states other than our own.

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                                1. re: Gizmo56
                                  L.Nightshade Jun 14, 2012 08:44 PM

                                  Um, no. I've been buying specialty spirits from NY for quite a while, and now plan on buying not-so-specialty spirits. Looking at several retailers, they have states to which they cannot ship, but WA is not one.

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                                  1. re: L.Nightshade
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                                    Gizmo56 Jun 14, 2012 09:14 PM

                                    The following is from the policy page of an online retailer, and this is typicalk of language I see at many others:

                                    "It is Binny's policy not to ship to certain states where direct shipment is prohibited and therefore, our web site will not let you place an order for shipment to Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia and other states." ( http://www.binnys.com/policies )

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                                    1. re: Gizmo56
                                      L.Nightshade Jun 14, 2012 09:19 PM

                                      Oh well. I guess I'll keep enjoying my imaginary liquor that is delivered to my doorstep from out of state.

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                                      1. re: L.Nightshade
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                                        Gizmo56 Jun 14, 2012 09:36 PM

                                        Your deliveries are not imaginary and neither are mine. All I am saying is that most online retailers don't ship to Washington.

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                      2. MsMaryMc Jun 2, 2012 11:23 PM

                        I went to Safeway in Burien last night (Friday 6/1) about 10 pm, and the liquor shelves were about 1/3 bare. There were tags for a lot of products in front of empty spaces. I have to think they had plenty of time to get stock in, so it's hard to believe they started out with that kind of spotty selection. I think they'd just had that much demand in the first 22 hours. The checkout lines somewhat confirmed this--I'd say half the people in the (surprisingly-long for that time of night) lines had a bottle of booze, and not much else--and most of them were buying big 1.75 liter bottles.

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                          d8200 Jun 3, 2012 10:06 AM

                          As for the selection issues, I think it will take awhile for supply and demand to balance itself out. Stores need to figure out what their customer base wants, which they will never know unless you tell them, so be proactive and talk to a manager or drop a note in the suggestion box. I have a feeling that all we'll see at the big grocery stores during the summer are the basics, with only a few smaller stores becoming highly specialized (stocking product from local distilleries, small batch scotch & bourbon, obscure Kazakhstani vodkas, etc.). As for price, for me it was never about getting cheaper booze but rather getting the state out of the business. Be patient, everyone. This will take some time to get sorted out.

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                            BallardFoodie Jun 3, 2012 12:50 PM

                            Seems to me that privatization is accomplishing one of the goals: easy availability. I have to imagine that a ton of people who wouldn't normally purchase liquor have done so in the next 2 days. I was at QFC in Ballard early on 6/1 (15th newborn supplies run in 8 days) and saw them stocking the shelves. I was back early on 6/2 and 1/2 of the gin was gone. I only looked at the gin because I'm searching for Ransom Old Tom, which was available only in a state store in Redmond before privatization. No doubt, selection will improve in places that pride themselves on selection (e.g. Ballard Market types). I hope that there is an app/website which tracks the availability of obscure liquor soon (some will fill this need shortly). In the interim, if someone sees any Old Tom gins, let me know.

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                            1. re: BallardFoodie
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                              d8200 Jun 3, 2012 06:06 PM

                              I don't know if more people are buying alcohol just because of availability, but I know that in my area the state-run liquor stores stopped restocking their shelves back in late April and all of them outright closed about two weeks ago. Because of this, many bars and restaurants started to run out of booze. Many owners were extremely concerned because they were facing a huge loss in revenue if they had no access to the hard stuff. I wouldn't doubt if these places were the first to go stock back up once the law changed, thereby depleting the supply.

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                              1. re: d8200
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                                BallardFoodie Jun 4, 2012 07:02 AM

                                Was at Safeway yesterday on my 28th infant-related trip and saw an employee helping out a customer with the high-end, locked case, top-shelf bottles. I overheard him saying that the estimate was nearly 70% of patrons purchased liquor on the first couple days.

                                The initial rush will even out, supply will keep up with demand, and everyone will figure out where they will go.

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                              2. re: BallardFoodie
                                gingershelley Jun 3, 2012 06:12 PM

                                Ballard Foodie, please check again first respone up top; Wine World off 45th. HUGE selection. YOu can follow the link to check for your brand to see if they carry it. If not, they will order it.

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                                1. re: gingershelley
                                  kaleokahu Jun 3, 2012 08:52 PM

                                  Hey, GS:

                                  I'll be all over this, thanks. But can you explain how I will be better off running the 45th Gauntlet to a private liquor store (for me about a 7-mile surface street trip) than I was popping into my (now gone) neighborhood jar store?

                                  I don't want to come across as a proponent of government doing it better, but at some level, at least the government *does* it.

                                  We'll see...

                                  Aloha,
                                  Kaleo

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                                  1. re: kaleokahu
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                                    Lauren Jun 4, 2012 11:23 AM

                                    Because your neighborhood jar store carried an abysmal selection. I certainly didn't (don't) want the State choosing which booze to carry.

                                    If we didn't have the 10,000 sf rule (thanks to the folks who were afraid of corner stores selling booze) we won't be able to have places who specialize in one thing, like K&L in California. But we will have Wine World. And soon BevMo.

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                                    1. re: Lauren
                                      kaleokahu Jun 4, 2012 01:46 PM

                                      Hi, Lauren:

                                      I'm not understanding your point, I guess. Maybe I'm too pedestrian in my tastes, but my neighborhood WSLCB store had what I wanted at least 95% of the time, and for the other 5%, I could just conveniently pop in when I was nearby to pick up a special order.

                                      Was there any booze you wanted that WSLCB declined to carry? And even if so, are you more or less confident there will now be a nearby seller who will carry such things? If WA goes the way of Hawai'i, selection will narrow and Balkanize, not widen. Again, I hope I'm wrong.

                                      Aloha,
                                      Kaleo

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                                      1. re: kaleokahu
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                                        Lauren Jun 5, 2012 09:54 AM

                                        There is a lot of booze I wanted that the WSLCB declined to carry. I had breakfast with a distributor this weekend and he was excited because he can now sell all of his lines in the state. There was so much the WSLCB wouldn't add.

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                                        1. re: Lauren
                                          kaleokahu Jun 5, 2012 02:24 PM

                                          Hi, Lauren:

                                          Out of curiosity, what was it they wouldn't carry or order?

                                          Are you in the new private booze industry?

                                          Aloha,
                                          Kaleo

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                                          1. re: kaleokahu
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                                            Lauren Jun 6, 2012 11:05 AM

                                            Not in the industry, just an enthusiast. I'll ask my husband to come up with a list of what he couldn't get in the state. We do a lot of ordering from out of state as well.

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                                            1. re: Lauren
                                              Tom Armitage Jun 6, 2012 11:51 AM

                                              One example is Root, a liquor made by Art in the Age. I know that many mixologists in Seattle were asking the WSLCB to order it, as did I. But to no avail. Interestingly, however, the WSLCB did stock another Art in the Age liquor, Rhuby, with which I’ve enjoyed experimenting.

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                                              1. re: Lauren
                                                kaleokahu Jun 6, 2012 12:11 PM

                                                Hi. Lauren:

                                                I was just keying off the fact that you breakfasted with a distributor... You *must* be an enthusiast.

                                                Anyway, I am just concerned that the privatization will effectively result in fewer choices for all but the few, lucky citizens who live near a true booze megastore. And higher prices. The least they could have done was set a reasonable SF threshold, like 2,500 sq. feet, to encourage competition.

                                                Aloha,
                                                Kaleo

                                                Ever noticed how you can't buy celery at Costco?

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                                                1. re: kaleokahu
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                                                  acgold7 Jun 7, 2012 09:09 AM

                                                  You can at ours (Woodinville).

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                                      2. re: kaleokahu
                                        gingershelley Jun 6, 2012 08:15 AM

                                        Kaleo, No - sadly I cannot explain how having to ever run the 45th street gauntlet would be better than not having to....

                                        I certainly wish that the 'new system' had somehow been able to change the state markup/taxes in a DOWNWARD direction, rather than increasing costs.

                                        We can hope this all get's some downward pressure with time.

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                                        1. re: gingershelley
                                          m
                                          mrnelso Jun 10, 2012 02:09 PM

                                          Our benighted electorate recently defeated a valiant initiative to bring structural reform and sensible taxation to WA state. Maybe the upside of the privatized liquor debacle will be that more people come to understand how previous generations have saddled us with a bizarre patchwork of taxes to fund the services they implemented (schools, police, etc). I'm not holding my breath.

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                                            gingershelley Jun 13, 2012 11:19 AM

                                            I'm with you mrnelso, a strange patchwork indeed in this state, and I am sure I would turn blue and die b4 anything enightened changes here...

                                            Think as for booze-buying, I will follow L.Nightshade's lead, and start buying on-line especially for the harder to find items I like to keep on hand for cooking or cocktails.

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                                      3. re: gingershelley
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                                        BallardFoodie Jun 4, 2012 07:03 AM

                                        Checked the website and it is not there. I will talk to them about an order if I cannot find it. Thanks.

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                                          mrnelso Jun 4, 2012 03:25 PM

                                          please report how that's workin' out for ya'

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                                            BallardFoodie Jun 18, 2012 06:56 AM

                                            My wife located a bottle for me as a father's day gift. She ended up contacting Ransom directly, who then called their distributor. After being sent to the Ballard Market (not there), the U-Village QFC (she was told not yet, but that they plan to expand and have the largest liquor selection in Seattle), and ultimately found it at the Metropolitan Market on Sand Point. It cost more than $50 for a bottle which retailed at $37.50 less than a month ago, although located in a state store in Redmond.

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                                              kaleokahu Jun 18, 2012 07:38 AM

                                              And we call this progress?

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                                                GreenYoshi Jun 18, 2012 09:27 AM

                                                (I call it cherry picking anecdotal evidence to support your point...)

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                                                  kaleokahu Jun 18, 2012 09:48 AM

                                                  Hi, GY:

                                                  More like a parable (Diogenes might say 'chreia'), but a fine anecdote it is, too.

                                                  I truly hope that prices come down (on all spirits), selection goes up, and liquor tax revenues don't fall.

                                                  Aloha,
                                                  Kaleo

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                                                    Gizmo56 Jun 18, 2012 10:03 AM

                                                    "Cherry picking?" You really think that the norm is now lower prices and enhanced availability following June 1, and that contrary experiences are the cherry picked exception?

                                                    Really?

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                                        2. re: BallardFoodie
                                          lavaca Jun 4, 2012 09:32 AM

                                          This is even further away from you than Wine World, but I am fairly certain I saw it at the U Village QFC in the special interest section.

                                          (Note that they hide their liquor in a separate storefront south of the main store. Incidentally, it's the former location of the state store on 25th Avenue.)

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                                            Jeri L Jun 4, 2012 04:04 PM

                                            I wondered about that. There go my impulse purchases. I rarely bothered to go over there when it was a state store so I don't expect I'll be starting now.

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                                            1. re: lavaca
                                              Tom Armitage Jun 4, 2012 05:18 PM

                                              I was just at the University Village QFC liquor store this afternoon and the selection was pathetic. No Campari. No Plymouth or Boodles gin. In fact, nothing I wanted was in stock, so I walked out empty handed. I certainly don’t think of Plymouth gin as “exotic,” so was a little surprised, even though I realize that supermarkets will have the same limited inventory of liquor as they have with wine. So I called Wine World, only to learn that they also didn’t have either Plymouth or Boodles in stock. I was told, however, that they were on order and should arrive in three weeks or so. I realize it’s early in the game, but I’m surprised that, with all the advance notice, so many stores don’t have their act together. I used to be able to get many of the things I wanted from WSLCB (e.g., Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Clement Créole Shrubb), though not others (e.g., Root). My hope with privatization was that the supply of exotic, high-end spirits would increase. I hope they will eventually. Like most, I’m not happy about the higher prices, but maybe that will shake out too.

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                                              1. re: Tom Armitage
                                                kaleokahu Jun 4, 2012 08:56 PM

                                                C'mon, Tom... Compari? That's an exotic. Just use Kirkland brand Freedom Vodka.

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                                                  Lauren Jun 5, 2012 09:57 AM

                                                  I'm surprised Wine World didn't have Plymouth or Boodles. My husband was there on Friday and was thrilled with the selection of bourbon and rye's that they have. And just wait until they get in their full inventory. I'll be like a kid in a candy store!

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                                                    FoodDee Jun 5, 2012 04:53 PM

                                                    Heard about another place going in that will be bigger than Wine World called Total. It will be by the new Uwajimaya in Bellevue. Checked out the Costco in Kirkland today - the selection seemed pretty much like that at most Costcos that carry alcohol in other states but they did also have selections from some of our local distillerys. Signs all over trying to explain the added taxes. I later heard something on the radio that their sales were twice what they expected.

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                                                      firecracker Jun 9, 2012 12:13 PM

                                                      I've been to Total Wines when visiting in Phoenix and I think they will give the local grocery outlets a run for their money as will BevMo. Selection and prices should be much better. Not only did Total have a huge selection of wines, their hard liquor selection was terrific too. Guess you can tell I was impressed.

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                                            2. babette feasts Jun 4, 2012 06:59 PM

                                              Time to buy more Costco stock!

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                                                MillCreek Jun 6, 2012 05:06 PM

                                                We buy perhaps three bottles of liquor per year so the privatization was largely of academic interest to us. We did discover, however, that the Kirkland Signature golden margarita mix, at $ 11 for 1.75 liters, is pretty darn tasty and is a good value. The liquor store closest to me in Mill Creek closed.

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                                                  FoodDee Jun 6, 2012 08:07 PM

                                                  Costco is reporting that they are keeping their prices below what they were under the State stores even if it cuts into their profit margin. Since I rarely bought in the state stores and since there is no way to compare their private brands, I can't personally confirm this.

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                                                    dagoose Jun 7, 2012 08:17 AM

                                                    I believe that all of the stores are taking pretty sever cuts to profit margins to sell liquor, on the basis that they're increasing customer count/getting people in the door.

                                                    One of the pieces that is missing from this discussion is that in addition to the 20.5% tax, and the liter tax (varies ~10%), is that there are required fees within the bottle price as per the 1183 requirements: a 10% distribution fee and a 17% retail sales fee.

                                                    http://metropolitan-market.com/wineBe...

                                                    I think that after a year or two under 1183 (when some of the original taxes expire) and the distribution cycle finds its niche (currently why there's so many empty shelves) this will shake out to everyone's benefit. Though at the moment, it does appear to be a bumpy road.

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                                                      equinoise Jun 7, 2012 02:12 PM

                                                      I looked at this link. I'll admit to not reading the details of the law, but it seems all to convenient for the retailers like Met Market (and wholesalers) to suggest that the existence of the 10/17% fees necessarily results in or mandates "required fees within the bottle price." My understanding is that said fees are assessed against the wholesaler or retailer based on their total sales over a period of time, not per bottle. While it would be logical to just pass on the fee through an equivalent markup per bottle, there would be other ways to recoup the cost, including forgoing passing some of these costs on to the consumer until the fees expire, a form of amortization, if you will.

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                                                        dagoose Jun 8, 2012 09:24 AM

                                                        There are no costs left for the markets to absorb. No (non-costco) retailer is making money on the liquor at the margins they're selling it at right now. But they're doing it to stay in competition, and to pull people into stores.

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                                                        1. re: dagoose
                                                          kaleokahu Jun 8, 2012 10:44 AM

                                                          And probably to help drive the non-chain licensees out of business.

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                                                            equinoise Jun 18, 2012 10:58 AM

                                                            How do you know that no non-Costco retailer is making any money from liquor sales? The retailers are different from one another aren't they? The "sale" prices at QFC and Safeway cited by Kaleo suggests that there was a profit margin included.

                                                            If you are correct about non-profit retail pricing, that would mean that the 5-50% per bottle cost increases from the prices at state stores that are being discussed here and elsewhere are entirely the result of a net increase in taxation and fees from the prior regime, or a combination of that and increased profits to wholesalers (as opposed to retailers). Is that your understanding?

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                                                  2. kaleokahu Jun 7, 2012 07:47 PM

                                                    Well, today has some potentially good news...

                                                    A stop at QFC shows a curious and dramatic drop in prices. At the Interbay store, I was shocked to see "sale" prices. For example, a 750ml of Jamieson whiskey is sale-priced (members only) at $22.99, and the "regular" price is $35.99. A quick glance would indicate that at least half of the selections had similar markdowns. Wahine stopped a Safeway today; her receipt came with a 4-color printout touting Jamieson on "sale" at $23.99.

                                                    I'm interested in what others think of this and the reasons they attribute...

                                                    I am concluding that the initial price-gouging phase is ending (at least gouging on everything), and the selective/rotating sale/gouge phase is beginning. Not very subtly, either--QFC has profits on that bottle that it can spare by cutting the price almost by 1/3? Now I'm going to need an I-phone app to keep track of my liquor buys and direct me to the right grocery store. I hope I don't have to use frequent flier miles to get there...

                                                    Aloha,
                                                    Kaleo

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                                                    1. paulj Jun 12, 2012 08:09 PM

                                                      http://central-market.com/products/be...
                                                      is Central Market's description of the taxes and fees. They are approaching this issue with some caution, unsure how sale of spirits will fit with their current focus in the area of beer and wine.

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                                                      1. paulj Jun 18, 2012 09:31 AM

                                                        PI article about higher cost of bar drinks
                                                        http://www.seattlepi.com/local/komo/a...

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                                                        1. re: paulj
                                                          kaleokahu Jun 18, 2012 09:52 AM

                                                          Pssshaw, Paul, purely anectdotal. ;) ;)

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                                                        2. kaleokahu Jun 19, 2012 07:59 PM

                                                          Another anecdote: I was out of cheap Bourbon tonight, and went looking for a 1.75L of Evan Williams [No snickering now!].

                                                          First stop: former WSLCB store, with wall shelves approaching full (still can play half-court in the interior). Bottle was $29.99 before taxes, $42.00 total.

                                                          Second stop: Bartell's, with a truly minuscule selection. They *did* carry EW, but only in liters; the quivalent price was $36 before taxes, $48 total.

                                                          Third stop: Albertsons, OK selection. $24.99 without taxes, $36.57 on my receipt.

                                                          Color me cheap, but $12 is a lot of extra money to pay for the same low-end bottle. If I had *any* confidence that tonight's experience is repeatable with different bottles, I'd just buy at Albertsons. But the wild disparity in hangtag prices in all 3 locations would indicate that whatever I run out of next will also require canvassing several stores like I did tonight to avoid being snookered.

                                                          Aloha,
                                                          Kaleo

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                                                            Gizmo56 Jun 19, 2012 08:13 PM

                                                            Kaleo:

                                                            I have had precisely the same experience with various labels several times since privatization. Prices are much higher, sometimes much, MUCH higher, and in our new universe there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which store will offer the best price on any particular label. It feels purely random.

                                                            Also, as in your anecdote (gasp!), the only nearby retailer that has anything approaching a broad selection is our former WSLCB store. My anecdote (gasp!)...I happen to prefer Noilly Prat vermouth for martinis. In the grand scheme of things, this is hardly an obscure label. I also prefer buying small bottles, since vermouth begins to degrade after a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, and I don't drink martinis that often. ALL of the local grocery and drug stores stock only Gallo and Martini & Rossi label vermouth, and only in the 750 ml size. When the local WSLCB store runs out, I hope they will re-order.

                                                            Are we having fun now?

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                                                            White Castle Jun 21, 2012 02:02 PM

                                                            Total Wine and More to Open Thursday June 28
                                                            Bellevue will get a liquor superstore starting Thursday June 28, after Total Wine and More opens next to Uwajimaya.

                                                            http://bellevue.patch.com/articles/to...

                                                            I have been waiting for one of these superstores to open up because I think they will not only provide the selection but also will compete price-wise with the grocery stores who are taking advantage of us all while the rest of the liquor stores get up and running.

                                                            My experience from living in other cities is that these places are the perfect mix of selection and price. No I don't work for any sort of liquor store.

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                                                            1. The Chowhound Team Jun 26, 2012 05:40 AM

                                                              We've had to remove a lot of political discussion from this thread. Chowhound tries to stay a politics-free zone, and this thread seems to be too much of a magnet for that type of off-topic discussion, so we're closing it.

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