by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Kulbir Singh is a very busy man.
The Brazil, Ind., businessman found out Monday, April 23, he is now the proud owner of nine liquor stores in Washington, including the Sequim store near the Super Walmart.
Brian Walsh, communications director for the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB), provided a more nuanced definition of what Singh had purchased, saying that through their recent auction the WSLCB had sold Singh the right to apply for a liquor license for a Sequim retail store that is smaller than 10,000 square feet.
All other retail liquor outlets in Sequim are required to have stores that are 10,000 square feet or more.
Existing inventory isn’t part of the deal, Walsh said. He anticipates most of it will be sold to customers or returned to wholesalers through “buy back” programs.
Singh paid $63,200 for the Sequim store, which grossed more than $3.5 million in 2011.
Singh says he would like to stay in the store’s current location and is working toward securing a lease on the space. If he is unable to secure a lease, Singh can either re-sell his right or request an alternative location within a one-mile radius of the existing location. The state will operate the Sequim store through May 31; Singh hopes to re-open it on June 1. “It’s difficult,” he said, “but we’ll see how it goes.”
One of nine
Singh purchased his nine Washington stores with nine bids totaling $1,166,700. The Liquor Control Board sold its 167 stores for $30.75 million, with the winning bids announced April 23.
The auction was scheduled after Initiative 1183 was approved by Washington voters on Nov. 8, 2011. The initiative essentially took the state government out of the retail and wholesale liquor business.
Private businesses, including Singh’s, are stepping into the breach.
Singh, who owns several businesses in Indiana, including “a beer and wine store,” said he currently is thinking he may keep the employees who now work at the Sequim store.
Sandy Kvam, the manager of the Sequim store, said she hasn’t heard yet from Singh.
Singh said he’s also working on a strategy for dealing with the competition.
Nearby Walmart and Costco are both preparing to begin liquor sales. Other Sequim stores that have pending or approved licenses include Rite Aid, QFC, Walgreens and Safeway.
Liquor sales at private outlets begin June 1.
The Longhouse Market & Deli in Blyn, which has long operated as a contract liquor store, was unaffected by the auction.
The Sequim store represents one of Singh’s smaller purchases. The largest is the Renton-Downtown location, for which he paid $270,100.