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Grocers eager to enter liquor biz

Marcus Larson / News-Register<br><b>
McMinnville liquor store owner Ken Skinner takes stock of liquor and cigarettes as he replenishes his shelves after a busy holiday season.</b>
Marcus Larson / News-Register
McMinnville liquor store owner Ken Skinner takes stock of liquor and cigarettes as he replenishes his shelves after a busy holiday season.

Jan 6, 2014 | 2 Comments

By Molly Walker
Of the News-Register

In an effort to head off the kind of inititive-driven deregulation now underway in neighboring Washington, where prices did indeed take a jump, the OLCC has proposed groceries encompassing at least 10,000 square feet be allowed to add hard liquor to their inventory. That would cover all but small mom-and-pop markets.

Ken Skinner, contract agent for McMinnville’s lone state liquor store, located in the Baker Square shopping center on Highway 99W, said he thinks the state will manage to head off the grocers’ move to implement full privatization.

He said pushes for privitization have come to nothing time and again during his 40 years in the business. He said the state simply can’t afford to give up the revenue.

According to the OLCC, liquor sales netted $396.7 million during the 2011-13 biennium. The agency said $225.6 million went to the state for its general fund, $70.1 million to Oregon cities, $49.1 million to a state and city revenue-sharing account, $35 million to Oregon counties, $16.4 million to a drug, alcohol and mental health treatment program and $565,000 to the Oregon Wine Board.

Skinner started in the business in 1971 as a store employee in Beaverton. He came to McMinnville in 1977 to run the local outlet.

He feels he would still be able to compete, regardless. He said grocers would never carry the high-end products he carries.

“I’ll still be around for a while,” he said. “I can compete with the big boys.”

The OLCC was created by the Oregon Legislature in a 1933 special session marking the end of a national experiment of Prohibition. It was given the exclusive right to sell packaged distilled spirits, which are dispersed from a Portland distribution center.

Today, the state has 242 retail outlets, all run by contract agents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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01:54 pm - Mon, January 6 2014
Lulu said:
What Mr. Skinner apparently doesn't appreciate is the concept of customer service. The state-operated liquor store is about as much fun as visiting the DMV. When you're the only game in town, there is no inducement to try harder. His clerks run the gamut from indifferent to surly. "Debit or credit?" is the extent of their conversational pleasantries.
Let's pull our heads out of the past and erase a repressive, embarrassingly outdated government monopoly. Get with it, Oregon.
02:23 pm - Sat, January 11 2014
dumoyer said:
I agree with Lulu Also, it's ridiculous to have such restricted hours and days of the week for the sale of spirits. Very few of the state stores choose to open on Sundays, Amity is maybe the closest. Let's put the product in a store where it is available with the same convenience as wine and beer and isn't limited to one store in an entire town. Yes, customer service is not one of the strong points of the McMinnville store.

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