Liquor superstore coming to Vancouver

BevMo to open 11,000-square-foot operation in April

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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California liquor store chain BevMo plans to open its first area superstore in east Vancouver's Target-anchored Mill Plain Town Center, the company confirmed Tuesday.

The store at 700 S.E. 160th Ave. is expected to open April 5, according to Kris Mulkey, the company's director of public relations. BevMo is hiring employees to staff its 11,000-square-foot store opening next to The Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant in the shopping mall.

"The store will feature a large selection of spirits, wine, beer, a growler station, and special tasting room," Mulkey wrote in an email response to questions about the new store. The BevMo chain will compete head-on in price for liquor sales with other major retailers, including Costco, and BevMo will offer convenience for consumers who only want to buy liquor without navigating a full-service store.

Since June 1, private retailers in Washington could be licensed to sell hard liquor, an enterprise once handled entirely by a state-controlled system. BevMo burst onto Washington's liquor-selling scene early on, opening stores in Tacoma, Silverdale, Seattle and Tukwila. In addition to the Vancouver store, the company plans to open another Seattle store and a Bellingham store.

Mulkey could not say whether the company plans additional stores in Clark County, although she said the company will continue to invest in Washington state.

"I am not aware of other locations in Clark County at this time," Mulkey said.

Washington voters in 2011 approved an initiative that took the state out of the liquor business for the first time since Prohibition. The measure allowed large retailers, such as grocery stores and Costco, to sell liquor. But it also imposed an additional 10 percent distributor fee and 17 percent retail fee to replace money the state lost when it shut down its state-run liquor stores.

Private liquor sales greatly expanded the number of stores that sell booze in Clark County, a market that on June 1 increased to approximately 76 licensed sellers of hard-liquor bottles, up from 14 state-run and state-contracted stores, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board. Since then, at least half of the county's former state-run liquor stores have been closed, less than one year after the sites were auctioned off by the state.

In addition to price competition from the likes of Costco, owners of the former state stores say their border location also put their businesses at a disadvantage, up against price competition from Oregon's cheaper, state-run liquor sales.