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Eye On Boise

Wed., Feb. 13, 2013, 4:56 p.m.

Cross-border liquor sales: ‘Their mistake is our gain’

Idaho’s seen big boosts in sales in its state liquor division from Washington residents, division Director Jeff Anderson told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee today. “Sales along the border there are up probably 20 to 30 percent,” Anderson said. “With the addition of the Stateline store, combined Post Falls/Stateline is tracking about plus-70 percent.”

The sales got a boost when Washington’s liquor prices spiked after the state’s voters decided to privatize their state liquor system, but to keep all state taxes and fees in place. Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, asked, “As consumers in Washington get used to the convenience, I guess, of buying it out of the store, even though it’s got a higher price, my question is, will we continue having the same advantage? Or will the Washington consumers adapt to their prices and elect to stay home?”

“It’s difficult to predict,” Anderson responded. “I can tell you we monitor about 13 stores along the border, from Lewiston up to Oldtown.”

He said, “There are moves in the Washington Legislature, on the part of Costco and others, to try and repeal portions of how that whole system was implemented. But for the time being, we anticipate to continue to have additional business.”

An example is the “super premium” Patron brand of tequila, Anderson said. “It sells for around $50. In Idaho, out the door, that’s about $53. Pre-1183 (the Washington initiative), Washington state might have been maybe $56. So there was really no reason for a super-premium consumer to drive to try and find it at a lower price. Now, that same product in Washington can sell for as much as $75 to $80, when you add in all the taxes and fees. So when you think about the difference  between $53 and $75, that’s really what’s driving this, is the premium/super-premium categories.”

Eskridge responded, “We’ve got something good going here. We’ve got cheaper liquor prices, cheaper gas prices, cheaper tobacco prices. We need to keep on that trend and maybe we’ll continue improving our revenue situation in relation to Washington state. Their mistake is our gain, so let’s continue that.”

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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