Private liquor sales stall on Whidbey Island

Nearly a year after a voter approved ballot initiative allowed liquor to be sold in large retail stores, some former state-owned and contract liquor stores on Whidbey are struggling.

The liquor store in Oak Harbor closed in late 2012 while contract liquor stores in Coupeville and Freeland have seen sales plummet by more than half since privatization took place.

“It’s not going well,” said Pam Smith, owner of Coupeville Liquor on North Main Street, adding she’s not ready to jump ship. Coupeville’s liquor store now competes with local grocery stores.

She estimates that her business has been down by around 60 percent since the market flooded with retailers.

Ken Vaughan, manager of Freeland Liquor, said he’s lost a similar amount of business since privatization took place. His store is located close to a grocery store, which also started selling spirits after June 2012.

On Whidbey Island, large grocery stores such as Safeway, Prairie Center and Payless Foods, now sell liquor.

The small liquor stores continue to stay open. Vaughan said he hopes to see an uptick in business as the snowbirds return to Whidbey Island for the season.