By John Toole
---- — SALEM — The State Liquor Commission wants a new, $5 million store on Route 28.
Plans call for replacing the existing store with one twice as large, if the Legislature approves funding.
A legislative committee is expected to recommend the House include funding for three new stores, including Salem, in the state’s capital budget. The state has more than 75 liquor and wine outlets.
The budget likely won’t be settled until late in the session, probably sometime in May or June.
Craig Bulkley, chief of administration, said it could be a couple of years before a new 20,000-square-foot store would open.
The schedule will depend on other factors, such as the bid process and priorities among state construction projects.
“We are looking at trying to build it on the same plot of land where the existing store is,” Bulkley said.
The Salem store is located at 417 South Broadway, about a quarter mile from the Massachusetts border.
“It was originally built as a state police barracks. It was never intended to be a retail environment,” Bulkley said. “That has kind of handicapped us over the years for the amount of sales we do in the store.”
Salem ranked fourth among state stores for sales with $22 million in the fiscal year ending last June. The Hampton store on Interstate 95 was the top ranked store with $31.3 million in sales.
The Salem store is smaller than 10,000 square feet and has about 5,500 square feet of sales space. It is nearly 50 years old.
A liquor store recently built on Coliseum Avenue in Nashua is 20,000 square feet and has 12,000 to 14,000 square feet for sales.
“That is the largest in our system,” Bulkley said. “The Salem store probably would be similar in architecture.”
A larger store in Salem would let the commission increase inventory.
“We could have a much larger volume of wines, but spirits as well,” he said.
A new store also would let the commission better serve licensees such as restaurants, he said.
The commission also has longterm plans to improve the Londonderry store on Route 102, though nothing is at the funding stage, Bulkley said.
“The commission is dedicated to improving our older locations through facelifts and expansion,” Bulkley said.
He expects a proposal for Londonderry will emerge within two or three years.
“That is undersized for the population it serves,” Bulkley said.