2 bidders want to control state liquor distribution
JORDAN SCHRADER; Staff writer
Two bidders want to take over the state’s system for warehousing and distributing liquor.
They were the only applicants to meet a Sept. 30 deadline for laying out their proposals for leasing the state’s liquor warehouse. Now Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget office will consider whether either bid should be accepted. Retail liquor stores would not be affected.
One of the bidders is known as the Washington Beverage Co. Fronted by Tacoma business consultant Tom Luce and also involving New England liquor distributors and a New York private equity firm, the group successfully lobbied state lawmakers to put the distribution system out to bid.
The other calls itself Washington State Beverage Logistics LLC, but it’s not clear who is behind the proposal. Limited liability companies must register with the Secretary of State’s Office, which said it has no record of such a company.
The bidding documents aren’t available. Gregoire’s budget office promised bidders their applications would not be public until a contract is signed. A committee made up of four lawmakers and State Treasurer Jim McIntire will review them, but its members and staff must sign confidentiality agreements.
The budget office did provide one clue about the bidders: a list of attendees at a conference that was mandatory for anyone who wanted to apply.
The list includes representatives from two major alcohol distributors with national reach, Young’s Market and Odom-Southern Holdings; and a Northwest warehouse company, United Warehouse. Phone calls to the companies were not returned.
Rounding out the list are a consultant, Luce and associates, and a lobbyist for Costco. The retailer is watching the bid process closely as it pushes a measure that would cancel it – Initiative 1183, full privatization of liquor sales.
The initiative partly explains why some lawmakers pushed to keep details of the bids secret.
“We don’t want to do anything that would affect that initiative,” said Rep. Cary Condotta, an East Wenatchee Republican.
He worries that even announcing a recommended winning bidder Nov. 2, six days before the election, could confuse voters. That’s the schedule, unless the budget office decides no one meets the qualifications.
In any case, the decision won’t be final until after a protest period Nov. 3-9.
Jordan Schrader: 360-786-1826