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Eye On Boise

Posts tagged: Idaho State Liquor Division

Idaho liquor sales boost from Wash. privatization may be temporary…

So just how much of a boost did Washington's liquor-privatization move give Idaho's state liquor stores along the Idaho-Washington border? A nice bump, but not anything they're counting on lasting. The reason: Though Washington liquor prices went up, waves of discounting - not allowed at state stores - are likely in the future under that state's newly privatized system. You can read S-R reporter Jim Camden's recent full report here.

Otter on ‘Five Wives’ vodka flap: ‘It could’ve been handled differently’

Gov. Butch Otter, asked about the “Five Wives” vodka flap, said, “I suppose it could've been handled differently. I expect next time it will be.” He also said he stands by his liquor chief's decision, and didn't weigh in as the division flip-flopped and decided to allow the Utah vodka to be sold by special order in Idaho, despite initial concerns that the brand would offend Idaho's Mormon population. “They did the right thing in saying, 'If people want to special order it, we'll do that,'” Otter said.

He added, “I would anticipate that if we start getting a lot of call for Five Wives Vodka, well, we'll probably start stocking it.” You can read my full Sunday column here.

‘Five Wives’ vodka lawyer also challenging Utah law on behalf of ‘Sister Wives’ star

The attorney and law professor who prompted Idaho’s state liquor division to reverse itself on allowing “Five Wives” vodka to be sold in the state last week also is pressing a lawsuit challenging Utah’s bigamy laws on behalf of the star of the reality TV show “Sister Wives.” In Turley’s Utah case, Utah announced on May 31 that it wouldn’t prosecute Kody Brown and his four wives for bigamy, but Turley and Brown pledged to continue the lawsuit.

Brown and his wives and 16 children moved to Nevada after Lehi, Utah, police began an investigation into possible charges after the family appeared on the TLC reality series. They sued, citing issues of privacy and religious freedom. Turley argued that the Browns didn’t have multiple marriage licenses and were being prosecuted “solely because they call themselves a family in the eyes of their church.” You can read my full Sunday column here at

Idaho Liquor Division reverses itself, will immediately make ‘Five Wives’ vodka available by special order

The Idaho State Liquor Division has announced that it will make Five Wives Vodka available in Idaho by special order “to avoid unnecessary litigation.”

In a news release, state Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson said the division will immediately begin accepting special order request for the Ogden, Utah-made product, which it previously had declined to carry, in part because it deemed the brand offensive to the state's substantial Mormon population. “In a shared desire to avoid unnecessary litigation costs to Ogden's Own Distillery and the people of Idaho, today we have informed the makers of 'Five Wives' vodka that we will immediately begin processing special order requests for both on-premise licensees and retail customers,” Anderson said.

The product may be ordered at any Idaho liquor store.

Washington D.C. law prof goes to bat for Five Wives Vodka, threatens federal lawsuit against state

An attorney and law professor at George Washington University Law School has sent a letter to the Idaho State Liquor Division demanding that it reconsider its decision not to allow the sale of “Five Wives” vodka in Idaho within 10 days, or face a federal lawsuit. The vodka, made by Ogden's Own Distillery in Utah, was rejected both for general sale in Idaho's state liquor stores and for special orders, in part because the division said the brand was offensive to a prominent segment of Idaho's population; about a quarter of Idaho's population is Mormon.

“The actions of the agency constitute flagrant violations of the United States Constitution,” the attorney, Jonathan Turley, wrote in the five-page letter, adding, “Your action reflects not only an unconstitutional purpose in barring this product, but an equally unconstitutional underlying policy that gives you the alleged authority to bar products that you deem offensive.” The vodka, which features a label showing five women hiking up their long skirts, is approved for sale in Utah's state-run liquor stores.

State Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson said of the letter, “I received it, and I have no comment.” He said he is consulting with legal counsel. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessica Gresko in Washington, D.C., who reports that Ogden's Own Distillery spokesman Steve Conlin said today the company would sue Idaho on principle if necessary.

Idaho Liquor Division bans ‘Five Wives Vodka’ as offensive, it’s sold in Utah

Idaho's state Liquor Division has declared “Five Wives Vodka” to be in bad taste and decided it won't be sold in Idaho, either on the shelves of state-run liquor stores or by special order. Division Administrator Jeff Anderson said the brand is offensive to Mormons. “It's masterful marketing on their part. But it doesn't play here,” he told the Associated Press.

“We're a little dumbfounded by it all,” said Steve Conlin, a partner and marketing chief for Ogden's Own Distillery, which makes the vodka; it's sold in state-run stores in Utah and Wyoming. “The average person can look at our bottle and they don't find it offensive. It's certainly not obscene, which is what it would require for it to be banned.” He added, “We have a product that has sold nearly 1,000 cases in six months in Utah. If the reaction is because of a religious concern, we think they are extremely misguided.” Click below for a full report from AP reporters Paul Foy in Utah and John Miller in Boise.

Washington liquor privatization could impact Idaho state liquor sales

With Washington gearing up to privatize its liquor sales by June, Idaho state officials are worried about losing sales at their state-run liquor stores along the Washington-Idaho border; already, they've tabled plans for new state liquor stores in Oldtown and Post Falls. “I think we will continue to remain competitive,” said Idaho State Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson, “but we really don't know.” Last year, Idaho's liquor division distributed $50 million in profits to the state's general fund, cities, counties and courts.

For now, Anderson said, Idaho won't add any new stores, and will instead try to “get more out of the stores we have.” At least 13 of Idaho's state liquor stores are within 15 miles of the Idaho-Washington border, according to researchers at the state's Office of Performance Evaluations, which has been raising something of an alarm about the pending change. “They account for 23 percent of the sales in the state,” researcher Jared Tatro told Idaho lawmakers this week, “$34 million in sales, $13 million in profits last year alone.” If sales at those stores drop by just 10 percent next year, Idaho could lose $3.3 million in profits, he warned.

Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, said, “I've been told that the Post Falls stores sell more than anyplace in the state, and I'm sure it's because of the sales to Washingtonians.” You can read my full story here at

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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