Pour: Washington’s New Liquor Superstores

Now that the state is out of the liquor business, new big-box booze stores offer a whole new shopping experience.

By Allecia Vermillion August 22, 2012 Published in the September 2012 issue of Seattle Met

Four months ago you were more likely to see bigfoot in Washington than a liquor superstore. But the passage of I-1183, the liquor privatization bill spearheaded by Costco, also opened the state to big-box booze emporiums. These stores may be the size of a small airplane hangar, but every one of them is eager to prove its commitment to drinking local, as well as selling a dizzying array of alcoholic beverages, garnishes, mixers, and snacks. Here’s how the shopping experience breaks down



3126 NW Randall Way, Silverdale, 360-692-1505. 
2330 S 37th St, Tacoma, 253-472-0202;

Specs Stores are open in Tacoma and Silverdale (both about 12,000 square feet), though execs with the Bay Area–based chain say many more locations are in store for Washington, including Seattle. The rest of the 117 stores are in California and Arizona.

Shop Here If You care about what you’re drinking but don’t want to spend two hours wandering the aisles in a daze.

The Spiel “We’re not a superstore; we’re a specialty store. We want to remove the intimidation and encourage people to explore.” —Chief Marketing Officer Francesca Schuler

Price Check 750 mL Absolut Vodka: $19; 750 mL Woodinville Whiskey 100 Percent Rye Whiskey: $34 (both prices with free ClubBev! membership)

Beer Thanks to the state’s beer-friendly liquor laws, Washington stores are the first with a growler fill program. Outside the refrigerated taproom, a selection of 1,400 styles includes some rarities, like bottles from Tacoma’s Harmon Brewing, that seldom make it to Seattle.

Wine More than 500 Washington vintages are mixed in among the selection of 2,000 wines, flagged for easy spotting. 

Spirits Bottles that cost more than $30-ish reside in glass cases. Press a button and the loudspeaker announces, “Assistance needed at the tequila case.” 


Total Wine and More
699 120th Ave NE, Bellevue, 425-454-1317;

Specs It’s the 81st store for the Maryland-based chain, and at 30,000 square feet, it’s 20 percent larger than the average store size. A Tukwila location opens in September and the company also has openings in the works in Spokane and other cities around the state.

Shop Here If You think liquor is best purchased with a shopping cart and you don’t overwhelm easily.

The Spiel “We’re kind of the Barnes and Noble of the alcoholic beverage business; that’s who our customer is, folks who read and have a food- and wine-type lifestyle.” —Cofounder David Trone

Price Check 750 mL Absolut Vodka: $15; 750 mL Woodinville Whiskey 100 Percent Rye Whiskey: $39 

Beer A 12-tap growler fill-up station is a new feature for Washington stores. The 2,500-beer selection includes small-batch finds like Sound Brewing’s Humulo Nimbus and mass-market brews in every conceivable size of bottle and can and keg.

Wine Store reps say the selection of 1,700 Washington wines is the largest anywhere in the country, but navigating the varietal and appellation organization can be confusing. Just remember—everything is alphabetical, and flag down a salesperson when the inevitable confusion ensues.

Spirits The highest of the high ($200 single-malt whiskeys), the lowest of the low ($5.99 bottles of Bankers Club Vodka), and everything in between.

Wine World and Spirits
400 NE 45th St, Wallingford, 206-402-6086;

Specs A former Office Max turned wine superstore turned booze bonanza; even before the law officially changed, the words “and Spirits” were added to the glowing sign just off I-5.

Shop Here If You want the selection of a big box with the warm fuzzies of shopping local, are hunting for an obscure Washington spirit, or enjoy sampling a wine or two (or five).

The Spiel “There’s been no hesitation on most people’s part to buy things that are more interesting and expensive. We can’t seem to sell the cheap stuff.” —Founder David LeClaire

Price Check 750 mL Absolut Vodka: $22; 750 mL Woodinville Whiskey 100 Percent Rye Whiskey: $39 

Beer The 500-brew selection isn’t vast, but it’s a well-chosen mix of locals and notable craft brews from California to Belgium. The store has also added a growler station. 

Wine Grapes still dominate the 23,000-square-foot space. The racks and boxes of bottles (about 8,000 varieties) don’t feel overly organized, yet the store is easy to navigate. A $25 annual membership gets you a 5 percent discount on wine.

Spirits The entire back wall is now filled with 2,000 whiskeys, vodkas, and more. In addition to the usual suspects, Wine World makes a point to stock every single Washington spirit on the market—though given the impending flood of craft distilleries, this might not be feasible in the future. LeClaire hired the guy who did sourcing for the Liquor Control Board to serve as one of the store’s two spirits experts.

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