Last year's budget-setting for the Idaho State Liquor Division was delayed a day after the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee deadlocked over a proposal to keep some state liquor stores open later hours; the proposal eventually was approved. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, dubbed the extension from a 7 p.m. closing to 9 p.m. “the gettin'-in-trouble time,” and raised concerns about the change. This morning was different; the budget for the Liquor Division for next year, which includes no state general funds and has an overall increase of 2.2 percent, passed JFAC on a unanimous 18-0 vote and there was no dispute.
Eskridge said he was pleased by the response he got from the division to his information request about the impact of the change on the Sandpoint liquor store in his area. There, the closing time was extended from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The result: The store is pulling in an estimated $25,000 more in sales.
“It's a good thing, because it's justifying their extra hours,” Eskridge said. “I wasn't convinced they were going to add that much revenue. … I thought all it would do is change people's buying habits,” prompting them to purchase their liquor later in the evenings. Eskridge said Idaho needs to be careful about expanding liquor sales hours, because the move could fuel arguments that the state ought to privatize its liquor sales; an initiative to do that is now circulating. “I'm not supportive of that, at least at this point, because of the revenue we get to the state,” he said.