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A dozen stores in Auburn apply to sell liquor

With the state slated to get out of the retail liquor business on June 1, the rush is on for local stores to start selling spirits.

Since the passage of Initiative 1183 by a 60-percent margin on Nov. 8, the City of Auburn Planning and Development Department has received 12 applications from local retailers requesting changes to their licenses to allow them to sell liquor.

What impact the increased availability of liquor sales will have on the city is unknown, said Pete Lewis.

"We need to wait and see what the reality is from this," Lewis said. "It's just too new for us to be able to tell."

Since April 2, all the applications in Auburn – which are processed through the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) – are from existing retail stores that already sell beer and wine. The applicants are Walmart, three Walgreens stores, two Albertsons stores, Safeway, Fred Meyer, two Top Food and Drug stores, and two Rite Aid stores.

Auburn has two state-run liquor stores, one on A Street Southeast, the other on Auburn Way North. The state will cease operations at these stores on May 31, but private operators can run them, pending the results of an online auction.

Washington's 167 state-run stores are up for auction, with the highest bidder earning the right to sell liquor at the locations beginning June 1. New owners have to negotiate leases at the locations – the state does not own any of the buildings – and restock the inventory.

Before private retailers can begin selling liquor on June 1, however, I-1183 must weather a pair of legal challenges.

The state Supreme Court will hear arguments on May 17 in a lawsuit aimed at invalidating the initiative. A second lawsuit in King County was filed by unions whose members will lose their jobs if the state's liquor stores close. The WSLCB expects to lay off about 900 of its 1,400 employees.

For more information, visit www.liq.wa.gov/transition/overview.

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