BOISE – A North Idaho lawmaker sought Monday to kill the state Liquor Division’s plans to experiment with later hours, saying it would promote more alcohol consumption.
Opposition to the proposal, which calls for extending operating hours at the state’s busiest liquor stores from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and generating an estimated $2 million in additional revenue for the state, deadlocked the Legislature’s joint budget committee and prompted it to delay setting the Liquor Division’s budget.
State Rep. George Eskridge, R-Dover, tried to delete from the agency’s budget its proposal to spend $455,000 for extra staff for the later hours as part of a six-month experiment. Ten Idaho state liquor stores already stay open until 9 p.m. at least two days a week; the plan would try the later hours at 27 more.
“We have to recognize there is an issue between making money and responsible use,” Eskridge said. “This is the getting-in-trouble time. This is when the parties start winding out of their refreshments, and people say, ‘Let’s just make one more stop, the liquor store’s still open, we can go down and get some more and we can party-hearty longer.’ ”
Eskridge said, “Seven to 9 p.m. is not a normal time for buying liquor for responsible people. Responsible people usually do that right after they get off work or on Saturdays.”
State Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, offered an alternative budget plan for the agency leaving out Eskridge’s change, but it failed on a tied vote in the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.
“The agency has taken a very thoughtful, conservative approach to the store expansion hours,” Broadsword said. “We’re looking for money, we asked them to go out and figure out how they could make more money.”
State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, said tourists in her district often don’t arrive until evening, or get off the lake or the ski slopes, and they need to stock their condos; the later hours make sense for that, she argued.
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, said the Liquor Division consulted with the Idaho State Police before making the proposal, and determined that most liquor-related problems occur after 10 p.m.; that’s why the agency set the closing time in its proposal at 9 p.m.