When Vicki Mathes closes her contract liquor store in Roslyn on May 31, it will mark her 15th year on the job.

"I always said if it went private, I wouldn't stay in business," Mathes said on Wednesday. "I'm not willing to try it."

Her decision to close the Roslyn Liquor Store comes after a state initiative privatizing Washington's liquor sales was approved by voters earlier this month. The changes take effect on June 1, and Mathes expects her sales would decline.

Licensed restaurants and bars, such as Suncadia, The Brick and The Old No. 3, are one-third of her business, Mathes said. Once the changes are implemented, they'll likely go to distributors for their liquor, she said.

After the holidays, Mathes will start dwindling down her stock, but she owes it to the local businesses to stay open through May, she said. If someone else wants to continue the Roslyn Liquor Store, she can't sell. The store lives and dies with Mathes.

"The initiative doesn't allow contract stores to pass the license on," said Brian Smith, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

About 900 state employees will be out of work when the state closes its liquor stores. The initiative directs the Liquor Board to auction off the state stores.

The way that will be done is still unclear, Smith said. That's not the only detail that's murky.

"There's a lot of uncertainty about what the agency looks like come June," Smith said. "Anytime there's going to be a change this gigantic ... 900-1,000 people is a big number. A big, big number."

There's also some controversy over square footage requirements under the new law. Only places with 10,000 square feet or more may get a license to sell liquor (except for currently operating contract stores, such as Mathes', which will be grandfathered in). But if there's not an existing space that's 10,000 square feet in a trade area, a smaller space could be given a license.

"But they don't define what a trade area means," Smith said, adding that he's getting tons of phone calls about it.

Job prospects

The state liquor store in Ellensburg will close and its five full-time employees will be out of a job. Resources such as WorkSource will be available to the employees. Costco has said it will give interviews, though not necessarily jobs, to all state liquor store employees.

The Ellensburg store is 5,592 square feet and the building is owned by Canyon View Investments of Yakima, according to Kittitas County Assessor's Office records.

"We intend to keep our stores open all the way to May 31," Smith said.

Intend is the operative word, because nothing is stopping employees from looking for a stable job, and if the state can't keep a store staffed, it might have to close it early.

"Some of our store employees are going to try to find jobs," he said.

Smith is handling all media calls regarding the initiative. Ellensburg Liquor Store employees referred questions to him.

Fortunately Mathes has a few job opportunities on the table, and she plans to stay in the business.

"If you're a salesperson and you believe in the product you're selling, it's fun," she said.

She'll miss the store and the variety of people who come through her doors. "I'll miss everybody here, but if I end up having to move or relocate ... I'll always be coming back," she said.


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