Oregon 'modernizes' liquor store system with test program

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - Saleem Noorani knows a thing or two about hard alcohol.

"We carry over 1,400 items on our shelves," said the owner of Springfield's Cork and Bottle Shoppe.

As the owner, Noorani pays very close attention to what the Oregon Liquor Control Commission does.

"Oregon has made a number of changes in the last few years to modernize the system," he said.

One of those changes came on March 16, when the OLCC passed a test program to allow some big grocery chains to sell hard alcohol.

"This basically levels the playing field so individuals and corporations have the same ability to apply for a store," he said.

Under the new program, four grocery stores in different parts of the state could apply to sell liquor.

"We're not trying to add more outlets, we are trying to expand the possibility within the number of outlets that we already have," said OLCC public affairs specialist Christie Scott.

And stores can only apply if existing liquor stores in the area close or go out of business.

"Then a grocery chain or corporation could apply to sell liquor in the place of the one that was selling," she said.

The same goes for liquor stores. Right now a handful of liquor stores, including Noorani's, sell wine and beer. This program would expand that.

"Now they can come and shop for all their purchases rather than having to go to a grocery store to finish up their purchase of beer and wine," said Noorani.

The goal, to offer customers more ways to buy while keeping up with the times.

"We're trying to modernize the liquor store system in our state. Trying to meet customer needs but also protect public safety," said Scott.

Noorani said he welcomes the program, and doesn't look at it as competition.

"In grocery stores, you only find maybe 50 to 100 items on the shelf whereas a liquor store is much more specialized and we carry over 1,400 items on our shelves."

Four large grocery chains and four liquor stores will be allowed to apply for the program.

Scott said they will try to divide the state into four sections to evenly distribute the test stores.