In Costco’s Hometown, Liquor Store Employees Still Have a Job

Jun 5, 2012

The shift to private liquor sales in Washington is affecting some 1,200 state employees. But they’re not all out of a job. Olympia Correspondent Austin Jenkins checked in on how workers at one former state liquor store are doing under new system.

Last November when Costco-backed Initiative 1183 passed, Gene Blair called it a “gut punch.” The 64-year-old manager of the state liquor store in Costco’s hometown of Issaquah expected to face the unemployment line.

“I’m going to be struggling to try and find something that we can pay our bills with,” Blair said.

But today Blair still has his job and so do his employees. The difference is no they longer work for the state of Washington.

Blair’s new boss is the West Seattle businessman who bought the license to the Issaquah store. He retained the staff and kept their pay the same. For that Blair is grateful, but this month he will say goodbye to his state health care and retirement.

“He will give us some benefits," Blair says. "But it won’t be near the same.”

As for job security, Blair is confident his small store can compete against Costco and other larger chains. That’s because he plans to stock specialty liquors that won’t be available at the grocery store. I’m Austin Jenkins reporting.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network