Idaho border towns see boost in booze sales

Idaho border towns see boost in booze sales
Joe Bascuti stocks shelves at a liquor store Wednesday, July 18, 2012, in north Portland, Ore., just across the Columbia River from Vancouver, Wash. New data show that Oregon liquor stores near population centers in Washington saw large increases in their sales during June, the first month that a new Washington liquor law was in place. The numbers back up anecdotal reports that shoppers from Washington were crossing the Columbia River to avoid new taxes on liquor.(AP Photo/Don Ryan)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Idaho liquor officials say more people appear to be crossing state lines to Idaho in the wake of Washington voters electing to privatize the state's liquor system earlier this year.

Idaho State Liquor Director Jeff Anderson said November sales for example are up 40 percent compared to the year before in Moscow, a college town along the border that separates the two states. Idaho liquor stores in Post Falls, a short commute from Spokane, Wash., are also up 40 percent since July. The state has also opened a new liquor store in State Line - a small town incorporated in 1947 so it could sell liquor and have slot machines - to relieve pressure on the Post Falls store.

The Washington Department of Revenue says the average price of a bottle of liquor has dropped since the first month of privatization from $25.35 a liter to $24.06 in October.

But that's still up from $21.59 in 2011, according to a story published Monday in the Spokesman-Review.

Part of the reason for the increase is that the proposal was designed to prevent the state from losing money after it lost its monopoly. Essentially, that means stores have to find a way to squeak out a profit even after the state gets the same cut.

"It's just not possible to do both and have prices do anything but go up, at least in the near term," Anderson said.

Under the old system, there were 328 stores that sold liquor in Washington. There are now more than 1,500 stores that sell liquor. Even so, in the first five months of privatized liquor sales in Washington, stores sold 12.4 million liters of liquor, down from 13.3 million liters of liquor in the same period a year earlier in the state's monopolized system.

There are potential reasons for the drop besides increased prices. One is that drinkers in border areas are flocking to other states to buy booze.

A bigger reason, more likely, is that people and businesses stocked up on liquor in the final month that state stores were in existence in fear of higher prices, and their stash isn't yet depleted.

State stores in Idaho aren't the only shops benefiting from the change in Washington's liquor landscape. Liquor sales in Oregon increased 9.4 percent in October 2012, compared to October 2011. At Oregon's 12 border stores, sales increased by 34 percent.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review