September 13, 2013
Looking for a beer chaser to go with that shot of whiskey? Soon you won’t have to visit two stores.
Oregon’s liquor board gave the go-ahead Thursday for any state liquor outlet to sell beer and wine along with booze if the agent wants to and can get the necessary licenses. The move is part of an overall effort by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to loosen, or “modernize,” state liquor sales in light of changing consumer tastes and a push for privatization.
Last year, the agency gave approval for four liquor outlets around the state to start selling beer and wine as a pilot project. Apparently it’s working. Revenues at those four stores rose an average of 12 percent, compared with 7.8 percent statewide, according to OLCC data released Thursday.
“Clearly, there are no known negatives,” said Bob Rice, one of the agency’s board members. “My feeling is, we should move forward and open it to any agent who wishes to apply.”
Agents won’t rush to convert their stores, one local proprietor predicted. But Oregon drinkers can expect to see more options when they visit their neighborhood liquor store.
“I might try it,” said Barry Karimi, who owns Lake Oswego Liquor and Cigar Store. “Each individual agent, they have to make the decision. Is it going to work for them?”
It certainly seems to have worked for Dan Miner, who owns Hollywood Beverage on Northeast Sandy Boulevard. His store used to be called Hollywood Liquor. When he became one of the test stores, he moved several blocks to be closer to other retailers, tripled his square footage and began offering an array of beer and wine.
“And I’m doing growler fills,” Miner said. “I’m growing the business. For customers, it’s one-stop shopping.”
Oregon liquor stores are privately owned, but they are licensed and strictly controlled by the OLCC, which buys and sells virtually all spirits in the state. Liquor agents keep a percentage of each sale.
For decades, most of the stores have sold spirits exclusively. Pressure to change began to mount when voters in Washington approved privatizing liquor sales, and booze began sharing shelf space at local grocery chains. The change also brought big alcohol purveyors, such as BevMo and Total Wine & More, to Vancouver and other Washington cities.
Rob Patridge, newly appointed chairman of the OLCC’s five-member board, said he’s unsure how many stores will seek to convert.
“We have had less than a dozen inquiries about it at this point,” he said, “but I know there’s been some strong interest.”
Patridge also spent time at Thursday’s OLCC board meeting discussing his plan to set up an advisory board that would make recommendations to the agency about ways to bring state liquor sales — still operating under a post-Prohibition Era model — into the 21st Century.
Patridge said he met with grocers, liquor agents, restaurant owners and other “stakeholders” last week in Salem in advance of a legislative hearing aimed at exploring where the OLCC is headed. The joint House and Senate meeting is set for 8 a.m. Monday.
He said he isn’t trying to fend off a possible privatization initiative, which has been threatened by grocery interests. “My goal is to do the right thing as the chairman.”
Patridge is recommending a 13-member committee with representatives of business, government, wholesalers, distributors, wine and beer makers and others. Their job would be to advise the board on “retail innovation” and modernization, he said.
He wants the committee to meet six times between now and the end of the year to prepare for the February session of the Legislature.
Source: The Oregonian