The Idaho State Police Alcohol Beverage Control division is trying to crack down on individuals who use their liquor license sparingly or not at all, according to a bill introduced to the Idaho House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee last month.
ISP Capt. Russ Wheatley introduced the bill, which says Idaho bars with liquor licenses would be required to be open at least 20 hours a week and sell at least 20 drinks per week.
Now, Wheatley said, the ABC office is redrafting the bill to discard its required business hours section, after receiving feedback from licensees. They said they would meet the drink qualification but not the hours portion for various reasons.
“We have people that have these licenses that are not using them, so it kind of bogs down the system,” Wheatley said.
An agency rule says liquor licenses have to remain in actual use.
He said ABC litigated about 30 cases the past three years to determine if a liquor license holder was using it appropriately. He said the cases are time-consuming and those involved end up in court trying to rely upon a rule that is not clearly defined.
“Actual use is not defined anywhere, so it’s very, very problematic not only for us but for industry,” he said.
Eight people are now on a liquor license waiting list in Moscow, Wheatley said.
In a college town like Moscow, most or all of the Moscow establishments would likely meet the 20-drink weekly minimum, he said.
But bar and restaurant owners and managers in rural Latah County cities had many opinions on the proposed legislation.
Denise Behler, manager of Hillbilly Bar and Grill in Kendrick, said the bill wouldn’t affect her but Trestle Brewing Company in Ferdinand, a small town in Idaho County, would potentially struggle under the legislation.
“When the weather gets bad it hits everybody,” Behler said. “It’s slow.”
Christine Lohman, who owns Hardware Brewing Co. in Kendrick with her husband, said she strongly disagreed with the proposal. She also said it would affect smaller towns – not large cities.
Malissa Bogar, manager of Fuzzy’s in Deary, said the proposal might affect Bailey’s, a bar in Bovill, which closed down for winter.
She also said it would be difficult to enforce the 20 hours and 20 drinks requirements.
Codi Nagle, owner of Codi Jo’s Wagon Wheel in Potlatch, said she had no issue with the proposal.
“The last thing the agency wants is to put somebody out of business that’s actually trying to operate,” Wheatley said.
He said Alcohol Beverage Control wants to recover the unused licenses and issue them to people waiting in line for a license.
Bogar said some people might buy liquor licenses without putting them to use, then sell them when the price has increased.
Wheatley said ABC surveyed rural establishments with liquor licenses to get an idea of their hours of operation and how many drinks they were selling a week to decide on the 20 drinks and hours requirements.