Tri-Citians can expect to find liquor available at six times as many stores starting June 1.
The state has received applications to sell liquor at 53 retail locations in Benton and Franklin counties.
Although the state Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday from opponents wanting to throw out Initiative 1183, the state continues to move forward on pulling itself out of the business of selling liquor.
Already, 38 businesses in Benton and Franklin counties have received their permits, including Target, Costco, Yoke's Fresh Market and Pasco's Fiesta Foods.
There are 15 more applications for Tri-City outlets still under review.
To search for store locations in the Mid-Columbia and the state where liquor could be sold, go to www.tricityherald.com.
Many stores, such as the Kennewick Fred Meyer, already have signs posted on shelves showing customers where their liquor sections will be.
Three of the new owners of the five Tri-City state-owned liquor stores auctioned off by the state have applied for new licenses.
And the right to sell liquor at a store smaller than 10,000 square feet has been moved from the Richland liquor store on George Washington Way to the One Stop Mart at 1903 Jadwin Ave. in Richland.
The Columbia Center Boulevard liquor store is being auctioned off again Thursday because the winning bidder from San Mateo, Calif., did not pay his posted bid of $295,100. That store is among 17 stores statewide to go through the process again.
While the state is on track to have licenses issued to new owners of the former state stores by June 1, Brian Smith, spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board, said bidders who win next week's auction will not get a license by June 1.
Closing the state-run stores means about 28 employees in the Tri-Cities will lose their jobs, though some have already been picked up by new liquor businesses in town.
And statewide, spirits and wine wholesale distributors are adding an estimated 550 full-time jobs, according to the Washington Beer & Wine Distributors Association. Those jobs include sales, marketing, delivery drivers and warehouse workers.
An estimate of new jobs for the Tri-City area was not available.
The West Richland Liquor Store is the only business now selling liquor that will be permitted to sell it at its same address after May 31.
Despite the few days remaining until the switch to private sales, Kuo-Ying Frenzel, manager of the contract store, said pricing is still uncertain. Six months was not enough time for everyone to get ready for a change this large, she said.
"Everybody is just scrambling to try to get everything in place," she said.
A public hearing will be held Thursday on the proposed rule that all retailers must pay 17 percent on sales to licensees.
Smith said the state informed contract store managers the initial interpretation of the fees could change.
But Frenzel said the rule means it won't make sense for restaurants to buy from her store because the price will be at least 17 percent higher than what distributors can charge.
Restaurants and bars represent about 30 percent of Frenzel's business. She said if she had known that the retail fee would apply to restaurants, she wouldn't have continued operating.
The state initiative limited retailers to no more than 24 liters per transaction a day to individuals except for former contract liquor stores.
Now, the ability to sell more than 24 liters of liquor a day to restaurants and bars won't mean much, she said.
The West Richland Liquor Store will be closed May 31 for a state audit, but it will reopen June 1.