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'It's a buying frenzy' - first day of private liquor sales

Ashley Gross

"It's a buying frenzy. That's why I came - I wanted to see it on the first day. How could I miss it?" - Kyle Johnson outside a Costco in Seattle

The state of Washington has officially bid good riddance to its state-run liquor stores. About five times as many stores will now sell hard liquor, and the new law that went into effect today means shoppers can head to supermarkets to buy vodka or rum. It’s a welcome change for some people, like Alyssa Royse.

In the parking lot of a Costco warehouse in Seattle, Royse was loading up bottles of Costco's Kirkland-brand tequila and vodka - as well as gin, scotch and vermouth.  She said she's been waiting a long time for this.

"I’m a super crafty cook and there are times when I needed particular liqueurs to make a dessert and I couldn’t get them because someone in Washington state decided that liqueur wasn’t necessary for the general public," Royse said. "So I would literally either drive to Portland or scrounge it up somewhere else, and I just don’t want my choices limited by the government."

But a woman who only gave her first name, Melanie, said she was shocked by the amount of tax that got added on at the register. She said she was taxed almost $13 on a $28.99 bottle of vodka.

"I will not purchase this anymore, and if the line for returns wasn't so long, I would have gone right to the return counter," she said.

Voters passed Initiative 1183 last fall to allow hard-liquor sales in stores larger than 10,000 square feet, as well as in some smaller stores. Issaquah-based Costco poured more than $20 million into getting the initiative passed.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.