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Liquor store auction nets $31 million for Washington

liqour store.jpg
The highest winning bid was $750,100 for an individual store in south Tacoma.

LACEY, Wash. – An online auction to privatize Washington state liquor stores netted nearly $31 million . It's all gravy for the state budget.

State Liquor Control Board business director Pat McLaughlin said today that nothing was penciled in for anticipated auction proceeds. But McLaughlin says he expected the bidding to be fierce. And it was.

"I'm not surprised at the total number. This has been a very profitable business for the state of Washington. Hundreds of millions of dollars are generated every year and redistributed. I have always thought of this as the ultimate profit sharing program. So it doesn't surprise me that others wanted a piece of the action. I think they'll do quite well," McLaughlin said.

Bidding for the rights to take over the 167 state-run liquor stores ended Friday.

The highest winning bid was $750,100 for an individual store in south Tacoma. The cheapest store license went for just $49,600 for an outlet in Spokane. Starting in June, groceries and big box stores like Costco and Walmart can begin selling liquor too.

Washington voters directed the state to privatize liquor sales via a ballot measure (I-1183) that passed last November.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.