Kent stores apply to sell hard liquor under new law

Many stores around Kent are looking to sell hard liquor once privatization takes full effect on June 1.

Many stores around Kent are looking to sell hard liquor once privatization takes full effect on June 1.

Since the passage of Initiative 1183 by a 60-percent margin on Nov. 8, the city of Kent has received numerous applications from local retailers requesting changes to their licenses to allow them to sell liquor.

In the past 30 days, several businesses in Kent have applied for a hard liquor license. The applicants include Quality Food Center and four Rite Aid stores.

The state will cease operations at its stores on May 31, but private operators can run them, pending the results of an online auction. Washington’s 167 state-run stores, including two in Kent, 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.

This is not likely the final list of who’ll be selling liquor in Kent – sales can’t start before June 1, and qualifying businesses can apply at any time. Meanwhile, the fate of the current state liquor stores remains unsettled.

Before private retailers can begin selling liquor on June 1, I-1183 must pass through a few 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 state liquor board expects to lay off about 900 of its 1,400 employees.

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