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Local control proposed for Idaho liquor licenses

TWIN FALLS, Idaho – A draft rewrite of Idaho’s alcohol laws would eliminate the practice of allowing just one liquor license for every 1,500 people, an official said.

The plan, which will be considered by state lawmakers next year, is already under attack.

The draft was written by a committee appointed by Gov. Butch Otter in February. Its mission is to analyze the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control division, that agency’s administration, and how the state enforces laws and grants liquor licenses.

The 250-page draft proposes that licensing authority be given to counties or cities, said Bob Wells, an Otter adviser who heads the committee.

“What we’re doing is rewriting the entire code to make it easier for someone to do business in relation to liquor-by-the-drink,” Wells said. “Why should an agency in Boise, Idaho, be dictating to Twin Falls or anywhere else how many bars they can have?”

Idaho’s 1947 liquor laws, passed to promote “temperance,” allow a single liquor license for every 1,500 people within city limits.

Exemptions approved in the past 50 years allow cocktail sales at golf courses, rodeo grounds and ski areas outside of municipal limits.

But opponents of changing the state’s liquor license laws said it will be unfair to those who currently have licenses that often cost thousands of dollars.

“The main thing is it’s going to take away the value of any existing licenses that people have invested heavily in,” Denise Rogers, who worked for the Alcohol Beverage Control division for 13 years, told the Times-News.

Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said the governor would support the task force proposals.

“That’s keeping with the governor’s philosophy that government functions best when it’s closest to the people,” Hanian said.

The committee is made up of lobbyists, lawmakers and other state officials, and their meetings are not open to the public.