The Oregon Liquor Control Commission was created in 1933, within days after the repeal of Prohibition and, in the ensuing 85 years, records show Ashland has never had more than one modest liquor store. No more.
There’s a new liquor store smack dab in the middle of underserved south Ashland, nestled into South Town Market & Deli, relieving what might be called a decades-long “liquor desert” for those living east of Mountain Avenue.
There were no parties or marching bands to kick off this (to many) life-enhancing change on June 22. In fact, it was barely noticed, but there, right in the middle of the handy store at 1522 Siskiyou Blvd., is a u-shaped set of aisles chock-full of gin, whiskies, vodka, tequila and schnapps.
“It’s working fine. We’ve had no problems and no kids trying to buy,” says Rick Bagri, owner of (as it’s now called) South Town Market & Liquor. “It’s handy, serves a lot of people who don’t have to drive downtown now and it’s got good parking, which isn’t there downtown. It has increased our business.”
Unlike the old liquor store, the new one sells cigarettes and has a cannabis store (Breeze Botanicals) right next door, so there are a range of mood altering substances available with one stop. It also sells beer and wine.
In addition, the market offers ways to skip cooking, what with wraps, corn dogs, veggie salads, frozen India meals, baked chicken, and turkey, ham and roast beef sandwiches. In the interest of health it’s switching from fried to baked chicken, he says.
Ashland’s shift to dual “hard-A” stores came from the “open recruitment” by the OLCC, and Bagri was the only one who applied for an additional Ashland spot, he says. He was interviewed here, then had to make a presentation to OLCC in Portland, spelling out how he would control inventory, provide security (including video) and put the liquor in a location where you have to exit right into the cash register and counter.
In fact, they ask you to do your market shopping first, or drop your liquor at the counter first, so you’re not walking around with store with bottles of liquor in your hands, he notes.
“It’s been needed a long time on this end of town,” Bagri says. “The OLCC wanted to increase outlets for the convenience of shoppers” and to reduce driving.
Bagri is located a short walk from Southern Oregon University, but when interviewed just prior to the start of the fall quarter he hadn’t yet learned the level of demand caused by college-age (but over 21) drinkers. Students with ID get a 10 percent discount items from the hot and cold deli cases.
The new market has longer evening hours than the old store. The new one is open until 11 p.m. six days a week, and until 10 on Sundays. In accordance with state regulations, no liquor may be sold after 10 p.m. The original liquor store is open until 7 Monday to Thursday, until 8 on Fridays and Saturdays and until 6 on Sundays.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct. 1: Story updated to correct which items are discounted for SOU students and hours in which liquor sales may be made.