Consumers could see higher liquor prices at restaurants, bars

Consumers could see higher liquor prices at restaurants, bars

SPOKANE, Wash. - The price of alcohol could be going up again, this time in restaurants and bars, the latest change as a result of the privatization of liquor sales in Washington.

This is a going to be a new problem for consumers, but it's one that local businesses have been dealing with for some time.

Come April, customers will be paying up to 15-percent more for alcoholic beverages at restaurants if the Washington State Liquor Control Board moves forward with making restaurants and bars pay the same tax that independent liquor stores are required to dish out.

While this may be another headache for consumers, it's been a problem for independent liquor stores much longer.   

Greenacres Liquor Store on East Appleway has been in business for nearly 30 years, but business is not the same as it was before privatization went into effect in 2011. Owner Keith Peterson said before privatization his store was the distribution site for 50 restaurants in the area; after privatization he's down to six.

He said the fallout is due to restaurants going straight to the main distributor to avoid higher prices from independent stores required to pay the tax.

"We're hanging in there. It's a struggle everyday to make things work and we have made it work," Peterson said.

He added that his sales are nowhere near where they use to be when his store was state-run, adding that he's managed to find a way to make ends meet in order to keep his five employees.

"I'm just praying that we stick with it and have the same clients, new clients which we do everyday, we have new clients come in. We advertise, we're on Facebook and that's making some difference for sure," he said.

That said, Peterson said he has managed to stay open despite others in the area closing. He says it's all about being creative to keep walk-in customers coming in.

"That's what's keeping us alive is the difference in what we sell and what the big box sells," he said.

While Peterson has been able to keep his doors open, many other stores have shuttered since privatization. The Washington State Liquor Store Association recently reported that 60 percent of previously state-run stores have closed their doors.

"We're still in there, we're still hanging in there," Peterson said.

So now not only are there fewer options for places to purchase alcohol, consumers could also be paying more for alcohol when they go out restaurants and bars in April.