- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Liquor Control Commission voted Wednesday to accept proposals for up to 17 new liquor stores in the Portland metro area.

OLCC officials say they’re open to a variety of business models, including liquor sales within an existing business.

The OLCC has a monopoly on liquor sales in Oregon. It sets uniform statewide prices and owns all distilled spirits before they’re sold to customers. Liquor stores are independent businesses that earn a commission on every sale.

“We’re trying to create an opportunity for creativity, entrepreneurship, and allow people to step forward with new business models or refinements on their existing business models,” said Rob Patridge, the OLCC chairman.

The move comes as the OLCC tries to rebuff efforts by grocery stores to loosen the OLCC’s tight grip on liquor sales. Grocers proposed a 2014 ballot measure to privatize the liquor system but backed off, and they’re considering another try in 2016. Washington voters opted to privatize the liquor system in 2011 following an expensive campaign funded primarily by Costco Wholesale Corp.

“We’re in the process of doing our homework and seeing if it makes sense to do it,” said Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association.

OLCC officials say the three-county Portland metro area is particularly underserved, with just one liquor store per 25,000 residents compared with 16,000 statewide. Thirty years ago, there was one liquor store for every 12,000 residents statewide, according to OLCC figures.

The latest recruitment effort is notable for its breadth. In the past, the OLCC has identified specific neighborhoods that are underserved and sought applications. This time, it’s open to proposals from anywhere in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

The proposals will have to show that they have plans to keep the product from being stolen or sold to minors and will be subject to ordinary review process. Applications must ultimately be approved by five-member commission.

The OLCC aims to have new stores open in spring 2016, Patridge said.

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