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Idaho may change liquor licensing

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – Some Idaho liquor license holders have formed a group to try to stop a plan that they say would make such licenses easier to obtain and devalue the limited number already in existence.

About two dozen people have joined the Idaho Beverage Coalition, said Denise Rogers, lead organizer of the group.

The group’s goal is to keep in place the current quota system, she said.

The state issues liquor licenses on a per-capita basis of one per 1,500 people, based on Idaho’s 1947 liquor laws that were passed to promote “temperance.”

That has resulted in waiting lists to get licenses, and some people who now hold them – including members of the Idaho Beverage Coalition – paid many thousands of dollars to get theirs.

But members of a task force appointed by Gov. Butch Otter have said they don’t think the state should be dictating how many bars an area should have, and removing the quota could help economic development and tourism.

The task force, appointed in February, was told to analyze the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control division, and how the state enforces laws and grants liquor licenses.

Its 250-page draft proposes that licensing and oversight authority be given to counties or cities. To account for the possible loss of value for existing licenses, the committee has said it might allot multi-year tax credits to current license holders.

State lawmakers will consider the recommendations in the legislative session that begins Jan. 7.

“Decisions have not been made,” Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said. “We’re still gathering information from the folks who are on this panel and others.”

Rogers said cities and counties don’t have the expertise to issue liquor licenses.

“They’re not equipped,” said Rogers. “They don’t know or understand the laws.”

Dave Woodhead, who owns a building that operates under a single license, said he was unsure whether he would join the new group, partly because he leases his license and is undecided about the proposed changes.

“I’m in the dead center, really,” he said. “If you own (a license) then you are probably against it. If you don’t own one you are probably for it.”


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