OLCC: Would selling liquor in grocery stores work?

OLCC: Would selling liquor in grocery stores work? »Play Video
KATU photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. - Should grocery stores in Oregon be allowed to sell liquor?

That's one of the ideas that will be tossed around at an Oregon Liquor Control Commission brainstorming session on Thursday.

Washington state recently made the move to private liquor sales and it put most of the smaller liquor stores out of business. So what would happen in Oregon if grocery stores started selling liquor? Would that force the small guys out of business? Not necessarily, some folks say.

Alcohol is the third biggest revenue source for Oregon and while potential changes are only in the idea stage, liquor store owners are already thinking ahead. They believe there are a couple of things that could keep them from going under.

Dan Miner, who runs Hollywood Beverage in Northeast Portland, thinks variety will help him beat any new competition. "In any category - bourbon, whiskey, scotch, vodka - the selection is, and always will be, superior to what you see in a grocery," he said.

Another big difference between the two states - in Washington, the state owned the liquor stores, but in Oregon that's not the case. Liquor stores in Oregon do have to deal with the state as the wholesaler to get their products, but because the state sets the retail price that means big stores won't be able to under-cut the little guys with lower prices. That's what happened in Washington.

The ultimate goal by the OLCC in all of this is to get the perfect mix between getting more revenue and giving better customer service. The OLCC has assembled a group of more than a dozen people for the brainstorming session. The group will be making recommendations that the legislature can take up in February.