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Rights to Historic Redmond Liquor Store Location Up for Auction

The state is auctioning off special liquor licenses for each of its 167 stores with less than 10,000 square feet of space.

In the wake of a Washington State Superior court judge upholding the Initiative 1183, passed by voters last November to allow privatization of liquor and dismantle the state’s liquor sales system, the state has begun an online auction to sell its stores’ rights.

The measure, which goes into effect June 1, allows stores larger than 10,000 square feet to sell liquor; smaller stores could also be allowed to sell liquor if there are no other stores in the area.

Many large retailers in Redmond have applied for a license to sell liquor (); meanwhile the rights to the state licensed store at 16389 Redmond Way—housed in the former location of Bill Brown's Garage—are up for auction online.

As of March 26, there are 24 bids; the current high bid is $10,100. The online auction closes April 20.

Built in 1920 and designated by the Redmond City Council as a historic landmark in 2000, the 6,789-square-foot building was constructed by former mayor Bill Brown as a 20-vehicle repair shop. It has also housed Underhill's Furniture before being converted to a liquor store. 

The auction will transfer the location's retail liquor license to a private entity using a special exception to the law's 10,000-square-foot requirement. The exceptions will be given on a very limited basis, according to the liquor control board's auction website, which features the following greeting:

Welcome to the Liquor Control Board's (LCB) Auction site. If you are looking for an incredible business opportunity, you are in the right spot. For 78 years, the LCB has managed a very profitable liquor retailing business that has grown to nearly $889 million in annual gross sales with a healthy profit of 14 percent on net sales. Now you have the opportunity to start a business in your local community or even establish a chain of stores across the entire state.

The downtown Redmond store's status as a historic landmark means its owner must obtain approval from the city's technical committee before making any significant changes to the building's exterior, according to senior city planner Kim Dietz. But the auction winner will have more flexibility with deciding what to do inside the store.

"The historic designation of this location does not extend to the interior of this structure and does not affect its use, including change of ownership and change of business activity," Dietz wrote in an email.

The Redmond Ridge liquor store, meanwhile, is a contract location and has applied for the state's new retail spirits license.

Key Components of the Auction (from the state's website)

  • The Rights. Successful bidders will reserve exclusive rights to apply for a liquor license at the current location within its current footprint.*
  • Minimum Bid. The minimum bid is $1,000 per store.
  • Individual store or all-system bid. Two auctions will run simultaneously. Individual store rights are being auctioned as well an opportunity to purchase all store rights in a single all-system bid. The state is charged by law with seeking “maximum reasonable value” for the store rights. Following the auction period, the WSLCB will determine whether to select the individual store bids or a single all-system bid.
  • Relocations. Any successful bidder will need to secure a lease with property landlord. If a successful bidder is unable to reach a lease agreement with the landlord, they may re-sell their right to another individual or request an alternate location through the licensing process.
  • Inventory. Inventory will be available for optional purchase at a fixed-rate option based on the ending inventory at each location as of May 31, 2012.

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