September 16, 2019
Entrepreneur Don Sidhu poses for a portrait at his business, Beverage Depot, on Friday. Don Sidhu got into the liquor business to follow his dream of owning a successful business.Raised in an entrepreneurial culture, the 39-year-old Vancouver businessman has helped family and friends operate liquor stores in other states. The experience made Sidhu confident he could make a decent living selling booze after Washington’s switch from a state-operated liquor system to private store sales.His supporters also were certain, backing Sidhu up with $2.1 million in seed money that he used to purchase four liquor store businesses formerly run by the state.But the dream began to unravel on the first day of business in June. Sidhu’s customers balked at higher check-stand prices on liquor; a 17 percent retailers’ fee and a 10 percent distribution fee were added to the price of every bottle at ring up. Customers told Sidhu that they would buy their booze at Oregon’s lower-priced, state-operated stores.“They were just shocked when all of those taxes added up,” said Sidhu, who said he suffered many sleepless nights when the full extent of his business troubles dawned on him.In addition to the fees, Sidhu found out the big-box stores and chains were getting much lower prices on booze from Washington’s new distribution businesses. Prices in Oregon ran as much as 22 percent lower than his. The uneven competition was sucking the life out of Sidhu’s business.