OLCC looks into selling liquor at grocery stores

Bottles of whiskey, vodka and Scotch could pop up on supermarket shelves if Oregon decides to shake off an 80-year habit of selling liquor only through state-licensed stores.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which celebrates its 80th anniversary in December, recently proposed that grocery stores larger than 10,000 square feet could sell bottles of hard liquor.

"I'm not excited about the idea and hope it doesn't happen," said Patrick Voris, owner of Ashland Liquors.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has put forward a series of proposals that could change state liquor laws. The proposals will be fleshed out and presented to the Legislature next year.

Oregon is one of 17 states where the state buys liquor in bulk. Liquor stores are privately owned and get their distilled spirits from the state, which gives retailers an 8.8 percent commission on sales.

The OLCC is considering a hybrid system that allows local liquor stores to survive while making more options available.

The Oregon Distillers Guild has recommended the number of stores selling liquor be increased from the current 248 to no more than 300.

Voris said he wants the OLCC to put a lot of thought into the idea so that the stores such as his can survive against competition from supermarket chains as well as Walmart and Costco.

Christie Scott, spokeswoman for the OLCC, said many of the details are still being discussed as to how grocery stores would sell liquor.

She said liquor could be featured alongside beer and wine, or could be in a separated area in the store, such as the electronics section of a Fred Meyer store.

She said the OLCC will have a better idea of its proposal for selling liquor at large stores by the middle of December.

— Damian Mann

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