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Local booze hounds will soon have a new place to find disappearing spirits

Beechmont Kroger chosen as clearance liquor outlet
Posted at 9:47 AM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 14:56:26-04

CINCINNATI — You had your chance, Ohio. The salmon vodka is gone.

But a new liquor store is opening in Cincinnati next week that could make sure you never miss another oddball flavor bound for the discontinued-inventory list at the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.

The state agency that manages wholesale and retail distribution of booze in the Buckeye State has chosen a Kroger store at 7578 Beechmont Ave. as one of four “Last Call” locations in Ohio. It’s a place where slower-selling spirits are offered at discounts of up to 40 percent, along with seasonal gift packs and other merchandise that the state wants to clear from its inventory.

“The Columbus store is kind of like a destination spot,” said Lindsey LeBerth, a brand manager for the division. “People stop in regularly to see what treasures they might be able to find.”

Salmon-flavored vodka was one such treasure. LeBerth said state liquor stores couldn’t get rid of the stuff before its Columbus store consolidated the entire state supply in a former Giant Eagle store north of Downtown.

“I still don’t know what you use it for,” LeBerth said. “But yes, it all sold through that first day.”

Ohio’s liquor enterprise, which operates as a division of the state’s Department of Commerce, generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue from 480 stores operated by state contractors. Proceeds from the division fund the operations of JobsOhio, a nonprofit that leads the state's economic-development efforts. The division is in expansion mode, having opened about 20 new locations in 2018.

LeBerth said the Last Act concept, which debuted in Columbus last October, sold more than 17,000 bottles of discontinued inventory in its first 10 days. In its first three months, the Columbus store ranked 153rd in Ohio for total retail sales. That's up from 337 in the same period of 2017.

In addition to Columbus, the Last Act concept also operates in a temporary site in Toledo. A permanent location is expected to open in Toledo this summer, while a fourth location is being sought in the Cleveland area.

LeBerth said Kroger’s store in the Anderson Towne Center offered ample space for a dedicated section where Last Call inventory can be featured. The store is scheduled to open Wednesday with a promotional raffle on Thursday for Buffalo Trace Experimental bourbon. That’s an annual offering of new flavor profiles by the Frankfort, Kentucky distillery.

Kroger did not respond to WCPO’s questions about the new store.