Blaine’sLawrenson gets state liquor store license

Published on Thu, Sep 6, 2007 by ack Kintner

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Blaine’s Lawrenson gets state liquor store license

By Jack Kintner

Downtown Blaine business owner Steve Lawrenson will open up a contract liquor store in the International Mall on October 1, according to an August 30 press release from the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB).

“Make sure you mention my partners,” he said, referring to sisters Denice Velasquez and Marcella Gilbertson. The three opened up the Buy the Bay real estate and property management firm in space 340 in the mall last January 18 with Gilbertson as broker, and has now rented the 1,300 square foot space 400 next door for the liquor store.

Lawrenson and his partners is the third party that the state has tried to reach a deal with in opening a contract liquor store in Blaine. The state closed their Blaine store last June, and attempts to have what WSLCB spokesman Brian Smith called a “seamless transition” to a contract store at or near the same location were foiled by the inability of the first two choices, Nicole Perry of the Custer Country Store and Julie Guay of North Bellingham, to reach a suitable agreement with the mall’s new ownership.

Perry tried to re-negotiate a downtown location when she faced thousands of dollars in unanticipated up-front expenses from the mall owners, but the WSLCB refused, insisting on the mall location. Guay also “considered it for a couple of days and declined,” said WSLCB spokesman Brian Smith. She could not be reached for comment.

Lawrenson agreed with the WSLCB’s analysis, however. He said that he and his partners looked at locating downtown when they made their proposal but “traffic count and parking are big issues, and there’s no question that right now it’s better to be at the mall. Here it’s a one-stop for people coming south from Canada. If the liquor store’s downtown, do they then go somewhere else for a one-stop place for groceries and liquor? And where do you park some of the bigger rigs?”

He admitted that rumors of stores leaving the mall “scared us, too, and that’s why our original lease for the real estate office was for just one year.”

Lawrenson has worked with the WSLCB for over 30 years as owner and operator with his father Art of the International Cafe, now leased to Miguel Ramos as the new location for the downtown Paso del Norte restaurant in the 700 block of Peace Portal Way. “We still have the International Cafe, too,” Lawrenson said, “and Art’s still living right there.”
Lawrenson declined to say how much rent he and his partners will pay for the space “until we’ve got everything ironed out.” He said that while the three partners are anticipating increased traffic at their real estate office with the liquor store next door, he’s not opposed to a move downtown in the future.

“I hope it becomes a viable place for us to locate, and it should with some of the positive changes that are happening such as Rick Osburn’s project at H Street and Peace Portal Way. But the traffic’s out here. Friday night I came to Rite Aid to get a three-ring binder for one of my kids, and the parking lot was about half-full.”

Anticipated hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. For more information, call Lawrenson at Buy the Bay Realty, 332-6176.