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Trouble Holding Liquor 

Sorting out Washington's new booze law. Plus, a new judge, and an uninvited sheriff.

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Bottle Shock

Ben Hawkins doesn’t know what will replace the state-run liquor store in the Shadle Center. What Hawkins does know is that the transition to privately run liquor stores threatens to leave empty space at the mall.

“It’s a headache,” says Hawkins, who manages the center.

In November, Washington voters approved 1183, a law to privatize the state’s liquor stores and add two new liquor taxes. Big-box retailers like Costco, Safeway and Trader Joe’s provided funding to promote the bill. But now Hawkins and others must figure out how exactly to make the transition.

The new law allows only mega-stores of more than 10,000 square feet to apply freely for permits. But permits to run the state’s 166 liquor stores are likely to be auctioned off over the next two months. That leaves landlords and prospective liquor-store owners in a rush to figure out who will own what.

Prospective owners must bid in the auction for the permits. They must also negotiate with the landlord for the space. But if someone else buys that particular permit, the landlord will end up having to negotiate with someone else. If permit holders don’t want to use the former liquor store location, they don’t have to. But the new permit holder must then negotiate with the state to move the permit to a different site.

Landlords worry big-box retailers money might swoop in and buy up permits. And what if they just sit on them?

“I can see [companies] doing that to make the market less competitive,” says Chris Marr, control board member. (Joe O'Sullivan)

Rice to the Bench

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice will soon drop his suit and pick up a robe.

The Spokane resident was confirmed in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 93-4 on Tuesday for a position as federal judge.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended Rice for the position last year.

“As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, he has earned the reputation of being both tough on crime — but also level-headed and fair in the conduct of his prosecutions,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, told the Senate on Tuesday. She also urged the body to take action on 20 other judge nominees awaiting Senate confirmation.

Rice has been with the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 1987, and he now holds the rank of first assistant U.S. attorney. He has previously been the criminal and deputy criminal chief, according to a questionnaire he submitted to the committee.

Rice was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday. (Chris Stein)

Hit the Road, Mack

The Kootenai County Republican Party revoked its speaking invitation to a former Arizona sheriff and aspiring U.S. House representative last week.

Richard Mack, who is running to unseat longtime Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, was supposed to speak at the party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner, according to public relations chair Joe Malloy.

“There was some concern that Sheriff Mack may not be the best representative of the party,” Malloy says, pointing to Mack’s advocacy for changing drug laws and his support of candidates from the Constitution Party and other third parties.

Malloy says a majority of the committee voted to rescind Mack’s invitation.

Malloy describes the former sheriff as “a very pro-states-rights kind of guy,” who draws a crowd, but he doesn’t know if the local GOP will find a replacement. (Chris Stein)

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