Liquor store owners sue over privatization

SEATTLE — The owners of 11 stores that sold liquor under the state monopoly are suing the state government, saying that it owes them about $7.5 million in losses.

The owners say the losses are incurred because of the way the state handled the June 1 transition to private liquor sales, including a 17 percent fee they must now pay when selling liquor to bars and restaurants.

The lawsuit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court, The Seattle Times reported Thursday.

Their attorney, Kevin Roberts, said the state initially said it did not anticipate charging that fee for such transactions, and that some store owners decided to stay in the business based on that information.

The 17 percent fee is being applied the way the statute requires, said Mary Tennyson, the senior assistant attorney general who works with the Liquor Control Board.

She said the contracts that independent liquor store owners had with the state “provided for termination if the state no longer has the authority to sell liquor.”

The state’s craft distilleries obtained a statutory change from the Legislature that exempts their on-premises sales from the 17 percent fee, she added.

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