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August 25th, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | Bite Club
 

Bread, Eggs, Booze?

     
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With all the hoopla over the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's new plan to plop hard alcohol outlets in grocery stores, you would've thought the state's booze police had shed its notoriously stuffy image and was running down the aisles offering body shots to soccer moms on the make.

Bite Club is here to report, sadly, this is not the case.

In fact, last week's grand opening of the Garden Home Lamb's Thriftway liquor store, the first in the OLCC's two-year pilot "store within a store" program, was just another big media meltdown.

"Are you a customer?" a lady with a camera demanded as Bite Club walked into the new store (a pretty door separates the booze depot from the rest of the Southwest market). "No. Yes. Maybe?" we answered, eyeing a bottle of Wild Cherry Cabana Boy on the store's immaculate new shelves.

Inside, KATU newswoman/ fembot Corinna Allen flipped her blond hair and thanked OLCC executive director Teresa Kaiser for her comments on how partnering with markets could help OLCC agents snag primo store locations. A young Oregonian correspondent busily scribbled notes. We, instead, traded drinking stories with one of the store's cashiers, Michael Ames, a former bartendress at the Tillicum Club.

And what is Garden Home guzzling? "We cannot keep Monopolova vodka on the shelves," says Mike Babbitt, Lamb's grocery manager and new liquor agent. "We have an item called Hypnotic that is vodka, fruit juices and cognac together. It's baby blue. It's a surprise seller."

Actually, trading in legal drugs is not a new idea for this Thriftway. According to Babbitt, the market 86'ed its pharmacy to clear space for the 800-square-foot liquor store.

Now that's something to ponder. Every inch of shelving is prime real estate in a market. What will Safeway or Albertsons give up in order to get in on what may be the next great evolution in the family marketplace?

Back at the grand opening, a flurry of activity erupted as an old man in khaki shorts entered the premises. "Agh, you news people will do anything," he growled as a photographer begged for a photo op. He turned toward Ames and said, "Gimme a bottle of Hood River vodka."

A Channel 2 cameraman stealthily trained his huge lens on him. "You're an asshole!" the man yelled when he caught him. The cameraman apologized, stating that he was not trying to be an asshole. "You don't have to try. You are one," Mr. Crotchety grunted and then waggled his head at the Bite Club. "What's the big deal?" he said. "I was on my way to Raleigh Hills to buy a bottle of booze, but I stopped in here to mail a letter."

"So it worked!" we exclaimed, amazed at the efficiency of the supermarket model. "So I killed two birds with one stone," he shrugged. "You want to interview me? I know a bar down the street where we could go...."

Alcohol does make people do the strangest things.

*

George Black and David Stowell's beloved downtown food cart, Chef to Go, sold its last vegan noodle salad two weeks ago. No tears, folks: The pair is rolling toward a bigger and better food venture. In late October, Black and Stowell will unveil Veganopolis, a cafeteria-style veggie paradise at 415 SW Stark St., featuring soups, custom sandwiches, pastas by the pound and vegan baked goods.


Garden Home Liquor Store, 7410 SW Oleson Road, 246-3263. 11 am-8 pm Monday-Thursday, 11 am-9 pm Friday-Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday.
 
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