Story and photos by Doug Petrowski
The State of Washington has finished auctioning off its 167 state-run liquor stores; some are closing, the rest will have new owners. And large grocery, discount and warehouse stores are preparing to stock shelves with liquor and spirits for sale. So what changes are coming to Mountlake Terrace Liquor and Wine on 44th Ave. W.?
Not many, says the owner of the only store in town where you can currently purchase a bottle of bourbon, whiskey, vodka or other hard liquor.
Leonard Daniel, and his wife Lori have owned and operated the state-contracted liquor store at 22402-44th Ave. W. since June 2010. They plan to “stick to it,” said Daniel, even after their exclusive outlet for liquor sales in Mountlake Terrace gets some competition starting June 1.
Mountlake Terrace Liquor and Wine is one of 162 privately-owned liquor stores in the state; these stores will be allowed to continue to operate when new laws and regulations concerning liquor and alcohol distribution and sales go into effect June 1. The changes are a result of Initiative 1183, which was approved by state voters last November.
In Mountlake Terrace, the number of stores selling liquor will likely go from one (Daniels’ store) to four — Rogers’ Market on 56th Avenue West and Albertsons at 44th Avenue West and 228th Street Southwest have already applied for their liquor licenses and started remodeling to accommodate stock; QFC on 44th Avenue West is expected to follow.
Concerning the coming competition for liquor dollars, Daniel claims he’s not worried. “My competitive advantage is in selection, with 1,300 items in our store,” Daniel said. He speculates the big stores will likely only have dozens of bottles in stock at any one time.
“I also have knowledge of the products,” he added. “If you walk into Albertsons and ask how to make a mojito, they might say, ‘There’s the rum aisle; good luck.’”
There is one thing that will change at Mountlake Terrace Liquor and Wine come June 1: The prices will go up. Daniel explained that the state will start collecting a 17-percent fee on liquor sales on top of the already existing sales taxes. The new private liquor distributors (the state had been the sole distributor in the past — now distribution will be privatized) will also be hit with fees from the state. The bottom line is higher prices to the consumer. “I have to raise prices to cover my costs,” Daniel said.
Daniel will continue to be supplied with liquor through the state Liquor Control Board through mid-May. After June 1, it will come exclusively through private distributors.
The Daniels seem to be the perfect pair to take on the challenges of new rules in the liquor business. Before opening Mountlake Terrace Liquor and Wine, Leonard was already in the field of sales, and Lori had worked for 27 years at the Liquor Control Board.
During a recent late afternoon rush at the store, Daniel interacted with customers effortlessly, calling many of them by name. “My customers seem to be very loyal,” he said. “I have customers who drive by other liquor stores to get to ours.” It’s this loyalty that Daniel is counting on to keep the store going despite all the changes coming in the field.
Mountlake Terrace Liquor and Wine is open seven days a week.