Friday Harbor liquor store fetches $197K at auction

Tyler Felton restocks the shelves at the liquor store in Friday Harbor, in November; the store fetched $197,100 for the state in last week
Tyler Felton restocks the shelves at the liquor store in Friday Harbor, in November; the store fetched $197,100 for the state in last week's statewide auction of state-run liquor stores.
— image credit: Journal file photo

By Steve Wehrly/Journal reporter

Want to guess the price paid for operating rights at the Friday Harbor liquor store?

How about $197,100?

That's the winning bid filed during the state-sponsored auction by Sarbjit Singh, who also "won" the store on Broadway in Everett with a high bid of $251,100.

Singh was unavailable for comment after the state released the names of the high bidders, but he now has right to compete in future Friday Harbor liquor sales with King's Market and Friday Harbor Marketplace.

In 2010, the state-run store in Friday Harbor generated $2.6 million in liquor sales and sold nearly $20,000 worth of lottery tickets. That year the four state-licensed stores in the San Juans, which include two on Orcas, one on Lopez, as well as Friday Harbor's, together generated $4.3 million in gross sales, according to the state Liquor Control Board.

The "extended auction" on the government-surplus bidding site (kind of like E-Bay for state and local governments) was part of the state's "after-four-o'clock plan", as bidding shot up on the final day for purchasing "operating rights" at the state-owned liquor stores around Washington.

Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith reported board members and staff were "surprised and very pleased" with the results of the auction, which ended with 167 stores selling to 121 individual bidders for a total of $30.75 million dollars.

A day or so before the auctions were scheduled to terminate, Smith said that bids totaled only four or five million dollars.

After that, bids went up fast, including for store No. 169 in Friday Harbor.

On Friday morning, the highest bid for the Friday Harbor store was less than $30,000. By 4 p.m., the scheduled closing time, bids were heading toward six figures, increasing by thousands of dollars every five minutes.  Only after five minutes passed with no higher bid recorded on the bidding website would the bidding war end.

By about 6:30 p.m., the bidding on all stores ended.

The biggest buyer: Kulbir Singh of Brazil, Indiana, who purchased nine stores for more than $1.4 million.

Altogether, 11 people with the last name of Singh purchased 24 stores. In addition to Kulbir's nine, four other Singhs, including Sarbjit, purchased two stores each.

Multiple-store buyers include Michael Cho, who purchased rights to the Anacortes store for $200,300 and three other stores, in Wenatchee, Bainbridge, and Gig Harbor.

The highest purchase price was $750,100 for the 72nd and Pacific Avenue store in Tacoma; the lowest, $49,600 for a store on Division Street in Spokane.

These 167 "small" stores (less than 10,000 square feet) must compete with more than 1,300 large stores like Costco, Safeway and Target, which have filed "spirits retail" applications with the liquor board.  That total doesn't include "liquor superstores" like Besmo and Total Wine & Spirits, which reportedly are scouring cities of Washington looking for locations for giant liquor stores.




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