Avijeet Ghose understands the risks, but said it was an opportunity too good to pass up.
Courtesy photo A Bellevue resident and his partners have won the bid to purchase the rights to the Woodinville liquor store.
That’s why Ghose, a Bellevue management and technology consultant, and partners made a hefty $250,100 bid to purchase the rights to the Woodinville liquor store located at 13317 N.E. 175th St., currently known as Store 120.
The high bid was accepted last week as the Washington State Liquor Control Board auctioned off the rights to apply for a spirits retail liquor license at 167 state-run liquor stores statewide.
According to the WSLCB, the sum of individual bids totaled $30.75 million with rights awarded to 121 individual successful bidders, which earned the exclusive right to apply for a liquor license at the current location within its current footprint.
All state store properties are below the 10,000 square foot threshold established by Initiative 1183, which required the WSLCB to get out of the liquor-selling business by June 1.
The measure was approved by Washington state voters in the November 8 General Election, and paves the way for licensing other privately owned stores of at least 10,000 square feet to sell liquor.
Seven Woodinville “big-box” stores have applied for liquor licenses, including Costco, Rite Aid, Safeway, Cost Plus World Market, Walgreens, Top Food and Drug and Target. Some of them have already been granted licenses, some are still pending, but all expect to be in the liquor-selling business on or about June 1.
Ghose, who has never ventured into a retail business of any kind, said he is undeterred by the prospective competition.
“We’ve studied this extensively and have reviewed the risks but we believe three key things will differentiate us from the big guys,” he said. “For us it will be all about good customer service, a good variety and selection, as well as a convenient downtown location with an established clientele. We see those as good assets from a competitive perspective.”
Because the state leases the store properties, winning bidders still need to secure a lease with the property’s landlord. If they cannot secure a lease, by law bidders can sell their rights or request another location within a one-mile radius of the existing location.
Ghose, 46, said he’s already been in touch with landlord Wallace Properties to make sure he can operate at the current location, and expects no problems. He also expects his application for a liquor license to go through and hopes to be up and running by June 1.
“Speed is of the essence,” he said. “Our intent is to transition in such a way that makes a minimal impact on our clientele.”
Moreover, he hopes to retain at least some of the store’s current employees who currently work for the state.
“I’ve been in that store as a customer and the existing workers have so much knowledge and provide excellent customer service,” he said. “We’re talking with the current store manager about that right now.”
The WSLCB ran two simultaneous online auctions to achieve “maximum reasonable value,” as directed by the initiative. The first was for each individual store; The second was for all store locations available for a single bid, with the state taking the higher of the two. The $30.75 million sum of individual bids exceeded the all-store high bid of $4.6 million, nearly seven-fold.
The total number of statewide bids was 14,627. The lowest winning bid was $49,600 for Store 186 in Spokane. The highest winning bid was $750,100 for Store 122 in Tacoma.
Like many online auctions, if a bid was placed during the final five minutes of the auction, the end time would automatically extend for an additional five minutes. The official planned end of the auction was 4 p.m. on April 20, 2012. However, a late flurry of bidding activity extended the auction to 6:25 p.m., WSLCB said.