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Our View: Store saga isn't over

A word of advice to Ashlanders excited at the prospect of Safeway returning to the Siskiyou Boulevard store it occupied before its ill-fated purchase by the Haggen grocery chain: Don't count your rotisserie chickens before they're cooked.

Before the familiar name goes back up on the building, at least one court and one federal agency will be heard from. The bankruptcy court overseeing Haggen's case is expected to rule next week. The Federal Trade Commission, which ordered Albertsons to sell the Safeway store and 145 others as a condition of approving its merger with Safeway, will also weigh in, but when is anyone's guess.

Haggen quickly ran into trouble operating the stores and declared bankruptcy, putting most of the stores up for sale. Albertsons bid on 36 of them, including the Ashland location.

It would seem to violate the FTC's order for Albertson's to buy back stores it had sold to avoid creating monopolies, but according to at least one expert quoted in The Oregonian, it's not that simple.

Andrew I. Gavil, a professor of anti-trust law who formerly worked for the FTC, told the Portland newspaper the FTC could look for another buyer or, if none could be found, the agency could decide that having no store at all in some communities would be worse for consumers, and approve the deal.

The FTC isn't commenting because Haggen and Albertsons have sued each other.

Bottom line: If Safeway's return to Ashland is approved, it likely won't be anytime soon.