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Eye On Boise

Idaho House panel introduces new liquor license bill

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:


BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho bars with liquor licenses would be required to be open at least 20 hours a week and must sell at least 20 drinks per week under a new proposal introduced in an Idaho House panel on Tuesday.

Under Idaho's current law, a single liquor license is allowed for every 1,500 residents of cities. This quota system has resulted in long waiting lists, spawning complaints that the 69-year-old system meant to instill “temperance and morality” has instead created bidding wars, rewarding speculators while punishing the patient.

The average going price for a liquor license in Ketchum, a resort city in central Idaho, is $233,000. In Boise, a license can go as high as $160,000.

“It's a system that needs to flow, but it's not flowing because we're stuck,” said Idaho State Police Capt. Russ Wheatley, who introduced the bill to the Idaho House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee.

Liquor licenses must be placed into use for the first six months, but there is no requirement after that time period, Wheatley added.

A similar proposal was introduced last year in the same committee, but it failed to move forward because the Idaho State Police introduced it as an administrative rule rather than legislation. Administrative rules are created by executive agencies that enforce laws passed by the Idaho Legislature. They carry the same amount of force of a law, but are designed to enforce policy, not create it.

The law would not dictate what hours or days a business must remain open.

At the time, lawmakers felt that changing the definition of what “actual use” meant under Idaho law was a policy matter.

In 2014, the Idaho State Police's Alcohol Beverage Control litigated six cases involving the failure to use a liquor license. In 2015, the bureau litigated 11 cases.

Idaho has approved 869 liquor licenses as of 2016.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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