State looking to unload thousands of bottles of booze

SEATTLE -- You might see 99 bottles of beer at the grocery store, but the state has at least 90,000 bottles of booze it's trying to unload.

The state Liquor Control Board is auctioning off its inventory on Thursday, and pallets upon pallets of alcohol will go to the highest bidders.

"We have Louis V Cognac for $1,500 a bottle, all the way down to the mini bottles you see at the airport or liquor store, and everything in between," said Mikhail Carpenter of the Liquor Control Board.

When it was in the booze business, the board bought the alcohol for more than $1.25 million, and now it has 15,000 cases to get rid of.

While the idea of stocking up on some good vodka and whiskey probably sounds good to a lot of people, Carpenter said the public shouldn't get too excited about this week's auction.

"Unfortunately, you're gonna have to have a liquor license to participate," he said.

The state expects to sell the surplus to restaurants and people who bought the old state stores.

"We hear they are struggling," Carpenter said of the liquor store owners. "It is a very competitive market."

The curtain has already closed on several liquor stores since privatization, and there's growing competition from big box stores and supermarkets. On Tuesday, BevMo announced the opening of four more retail sights from Bellingham to Ballard.

Before I-1183 passed, there were 328 outlets in Washington licensed to sell spirits. Today, Carpenter said there are more than five times that number.

"The sheer amount of outlets increased in size, so a lot of people out there are playing this game," he said.

Liquor isn't the only thing the state is auctioning off, either. An entire distribution center will be on the block, and Carpenter said it's appraised at more than $30 million.

Bidders who show up at Thursday's auction need to have a $5,000 cashier's check on hand for a deposit.