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Liquor is ‘recession-proof’ in Idaho

BOISE - Liquor sales in Idaho are up despite the economic downturn, proving that liquor is a “recession-proof business,” Idaho’s state liquor chief told lawmakers today.

Sales are 4.7 percent over last year, state Liquor Dispensary Superintendent Dyke Nally told the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. That puts Idaho’s liquor sales at a record $135.4 million, up from $130.8 million last year, $78 million in 2003 and $58.1 million in 1998.

Nally termed the newest sales figures “really quite remarkable” given the “tough economic times.” But he also said sales have been tracked through the last five recessions, and each time, “liquor sales have held,” often going up between 4 and 6 percent. “So it’s kind of a recession-proof business, or at least recession-resistant,” he said.

The dispensary also is reporting record profits and record distributions to the state general fund, cities and counties and specific state programs that get a cut of state liquor sales.

“It’s not that people are drinking more - Idaho remains 37th in the nation in terms of consumption, low,” Nally told lawmakers. “It’s population increase and people are purchasing better quality products, people are purchasing higher-end and more expensive products.”

Also, he said, “We’re staffed leanly, and selling a lot of product.”

The dispensary is proposing two new stores next year, in Post Falls and Meridian. The state has opened nine new liquor stores in the past three years, Nally said; each one was in the black usually within six months, and always within the first year. Any expense to open new stores, he said, is easily offset by profits. Idaho has 165 liquor stores and annually distributes 850,000 cases of liquor to state-operated or state-contracted stores and licensed bars.