January 16, 2008 in Idaho

Idaho hopes to repeal Election Day liquor ban

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – A 1939 law is costing the state up to $400,000 in liquor sales every time there’s an election, state liquor chief Dyke Nally told lawmakers Tuesday.

“Idaho is one of only nine states that still place election-day restrictions on liquor store operating hours,” Nally told the House State Affairs Committee. The law, he said, is “outdated.”

Idaho allows beer and wine to be purchased in restaurants, bars, supermarkets and convenience stores on Election Day, but state liquor stores are closed. A separate Idaho law bans sales of liquor by the drink on Election Day until the polls close – so Idaho bars serve only beer and wine until 8 p.m. on those days. Nally said the distinction also makes little sense.

Nally said the law originated back in the days when polling places were located in saloons and people worried about drink influencing elections. “That is no longer really, in the modern world, a problem,” Nally said.

Sales of packaged hard liquor are state-controlled in Idaho, and the state reaps the profits. Nally estimated that every Election Day, the state liquor dispensary loses $350,000 to $400,000 in sales. It also takes lots of calls from angry customers wondering why there’s a Tuesday store closure.

The House State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to introduce the bill, which now will be scheduled for a full hearing.

“I don’t think it will hurt anything,” said Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard. The lost sales, she said, are “quite significant.”

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