New Wash. liquor laws start to come of age

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The first part of the state's liquor privatization transformation reached a milestone today.

Bars and restaurants across Washington can officially purchase liquor direct from distilleries, marking the start of the changeover to the dismantling of the state-run liquor system.

The switch won't necessarily be noticed by consumers. But it is the start of a major change slated to transform alcohol sales in June.

The changes are part of Initiative 1183, the voter-approved measure that moves alcohol sales from state-run or contracted stores to eligible retailers, including grocery stores. Challenges to the initiative are expected to be heard starting next week.

In the meantime, retailers with 10,000 square feet of space are preparing to stock their shelves with liquor. Numerous local stores have applied for their licenses, including Super 1, Walla Walla's Harvest Foods, Bi-Mart and Safeway.

The significance of today's date is that craft distilleries can now act as their own distributor and sell directly to bars, hotels and restaurants, many of whom supported the Costco-backed initiative.

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Starbucks is adding lunch to its menu next week.

Starting Tuesday the Seattle-based coffee giant will begin serving lunch, according to an announcement from the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Three different paninis will be served mid-day at a price of $5 each. The selection includes a roasted tomato and mozzarella, tuna melt and ham and Swiss. The paninis are served hot on foccacia.

Along with the lunch service, Starbucks will bring back its Tribute blend, a mix of coffees from the growing regions of Africa, Latin America and Asia Pacific introduced last year as a tribute to the customers who have supported the 40-year-old company. The return is due to high customer demand. Tribute will be available on a limited basis.

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The YMCA is spurring on a little healthy competition with its Corporate Cup Challenge.

Local corporations and businesses can participate in a competition focused on fitness and healthy activities. The goal is to engage the community while also providing employers with healthier employees who get an opportunity to learn more about the benefits of fitness, according to an announcement.

The challenge runs March 19-31. Activities will include a 5K fun run/walk; basketball; golf scramble; pickleball; racquetball; Texas Hold 'em; trivia; and volleyball.

Participants from across the Valley are encouraged to participate. Organizers say the purpose is to inform participants about a healthy lifestyle; promote company pride and community spirit; offer training; and inform companies on the importance of workplace wellness.

More details are available at wwymca.org/events.

Strictly Business is a local business column. Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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