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Indiana man buys rights to Oak Harbor Liquor Store

After more than a month of receiving bids, a winner was named for the rights to Oak Harbor Liquor Store.

Brazil, Indiana, businessman Kulbir Singh earned the rights to the state-owned liquor store operating across from the movie theater in Oak Harbor. He won the auction with a $53,100 bid.

The Washington State Liquor Control auctioned its 167 liquor stores to meet requirements of voter-approved Initiative 1183, which required the state to get out of the liquor business. Stores greater than 10,000 square feet will be able to start selling liquor beginning June 1.

Singh described himself as an entrepreneur who owns gas stations, oil change stations, a hotel and car washes. He became interested in purchasing some of the state’s liquor stores when he visited Washington earlier in the year. He said it helped that the liquor stores sell a high volume of product, only one party owned the stores and the facilities have been well maintained.

In addition to the rights of the Oak Harbor Liquor Store, he was successful in bidding for the rights to eight other liquor stores: South Federal Way, downtown Renton, Port Townsend, Evergreen Plaza in Tacoma, Pacific Highway in Federal Way, Indian Trail in Spokane, Northtowne in Bellevue and Sequim. In all, he bid more than $1 million for the rights to those nine stores.

In 2011, the Oak Harbor Liquor Store made $2.3 million in gross sales.

The auction doesn’t give buyers places to sell liquor; it gives them the right to sell liquor out of a store less than 10,000 square feet in size.

Singh has to negotiate a new lease with the property owner. If those negotiations fall through, then he has the option of relocating nearby or re-selling the rights.

“We are planning on running the store the same,” Singh said in a telephone interview Monday.

The Oak Harbor Liquor Store is wedged between three large stores, Walmart, Albertson’s and Safeway, that have applied for licenses to sell spirits. Singh said he wants to compete by offering a wide variety of liquor.

“We are going to cater to everybody,” Singh said.

The Oak Harbor Liquor Store was the only Whidbey Island location that was on the auction block. The other liquor stores in Coupeville, Freeland, Langley and Clinton are contracted by the state and will be grandfathered into the new regulations.

The auction of the rights to Washington’s 167 liquor stores wrapped up Friday and winners were announced Monday morning. In all, individual bids total $30.75 million and liquor store rights were awarded to 121 people.

With the auction complete, the next major deadline takes place in a little more than five weeks. June 1 is the date large stores can start selling liquor.

 

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