UPDATE | Bainbridge Island stores make switch to private liquor sales

Rite Aid
Rite Aid's shelves were stocked on day one of the switch to private liquor sales.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

Local businesses — and islanders — were ready to pop the cork when the days of state-run liquor stores in Washington came to an end late last week.

Friday, June 1 marked the first day of private sales of spirits. Overnight, the locations offering spirits on the island tripled.

Bainbridge Island stores were ready.

The island’s former state-run liquor store — now operating under the name Premium Wine and Liquor — is still fully operational on Hildebrand Lane.

“Our sales have been pretty good so far. Honestly, we have great customers who continue to come to our store location,” said store manager Kirsten Scheffler.

“We’ve had a lot of comparison shopping, which we welcome, because this is a confusing time for customers,” she said.

Scheffler is not exaggerating.

A new tax structure was placed on liquor sales in the changeover to private sales. An additional sales tax of 20.5 percent of the selling price is in place, along with a 3.78 percent per liter spirit liter tax.

Then there is the state sales tax.

It boils down to approximately 25 percent in taxes, according to Scheffler.

Perhaps the most visible sign of the switchover is the sight of new liquor aisles in local grocery stores.

Dale Reichert, store manager for Rite Aid on High School Road, said that the first day of spirit sales went well and by noon they were already selling bottles off their shelves.

Reichert spent June 1 organizing the store aisle that’s dedicated to the new products, hanging signage and setting up displays. The store opted to move merchandise around instead of remodeling the aisles.

“We had to re-merchandise the existing area to accommodate it,” Reichert said.

Reichert said that the alcohol aisle will be a bit of an experiment at first as the company gauges what customers prefer.

The first bottles on the store’s shelves were mainly name brands.

Safeway’s lineup was no different.

“It is going really well,” said Sarah Osborne of Safeway.

“We are all a little surprised at how well liquor is selling, actually,” she said.

Safeway had previously remodeled the southern end of their store to make room for bottles of spirits.

Town & Country Market on Winslow Way has not yet jumped on board the bandwagon, though the market is planning to offer liquor, in addition to its beer and wine sales, very soon. Town & Country manager Rick Petersen couldn’t point to an exact date when his store will begin stocking liquor, but he estimated that it will be within approximately two weeks.

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