Plateau Wine and Spirits to close
August 28, 2013
By Ari Cetron
New Aug. 28, 11:24 a.m.
Sammamish is likely to lose its only liquor store next month.
Jin Kim, owner of Plateau Wine and Spirits, says she plans to close the store Sept. 15, because rent is too high and profit margins are too low.
The liquor business, she said, isn’t quite as profitable as it had been when the state had a monopoly on the sale of hard liquor. Under that system, she said, liquor stores could sell their wares to bars and restaurants. Now, those businesses deal directly with a distributor, which can undercut her prices.
Furthermore, she has direct competition in Safeway, just a few doors down, and would likely see more when Trader Joe’s opens practically next to her shop, since those stores typically sell beer and wine.
Kim waved her hand at a shelf full of liquor bottles Aug. 21 and noted that stores like Safeway or Costco can sell the booze at a loss to get people in the store, while making their money in other areas.
“They can make a small profit,” she said.
She noted there was also a slew of taxes, most of which had been imposed by I-1183, the initiative that took the state out of the liquor business after voters approved in in November 2011.
Again, she noted that large stores can deal with those taxes and the slim profit margins they create, but for her, where it’s her core business, she has trouble.
While Kim said her sales of beer, wine and cigars is strong, hard liquor lags. As a result, she said, her store is simply too large, and she’d like to find a spot with smaller square footage.
Kim noted she has a loyal core of customers whom she appreciates, and that she is grateful for their support.
“I’m the local person,” she said. “I’ve lived here for 10 years.”
Kim said that she might not close the business if she can find a smaller location or someone to buy out the liquor license.
Her options there are limited.
According to the terms of I-1183, people didn’t buy liquor licenses and take over the state’s stores, per se, said Brian Smith of the state’s Liquor Control Board.
Instead, they bought the right to apply for a liquor license to sell in a store smaller than 10,000 square feet.
Kim could theoretically take that right, and the license that went with it, and move the store. However, the initiative mandates that the new store has to be within one mile of the current location.
Smith said there might be a bit of flexibility in that, but not very much. In Sammamish, that severely limits Kim’s, or any other potential buyer’s, options for a new store.
Kim could also opt to hold onto the right to apply for a license and not exercise it. If, for example, there was a new development built several years from now, Kim could then decide to apply for a license and open a new store, or sell it to someone else who could do the same.
For the time being, she’s started a going-out-of-business sale, where most of the store’s items are 20 percent off.