Will Washington’s privatized liquor sales impact Idaho?

Dec 2, 2011

BOISE – Washington State’s move to privatize liquor sales next year could have repercussions on Idaho’s revenues. That’s according to Idaho’s Office of Performance Evaluation.

Analyst Jared Tatro of Idaho’s Office of Performance Evaluation says high prices for liquor in Washington drive bargain seekers to Idaho.

But privatization may change that.

“If Washington prices are reduced to the point where residents stop coming over, what we’re going to see is, for example, if it’s a 10 percent drop in sales, that’s a reduction in $3.5 million in profit,” Tatro says.

Tatro says at least 13 Idaho-run liquor stores are within a few miles of the border. These stores account for nearly a quarter of all liquor sales in the state.

He adds it’s tough to provide a full analysis because Idaho’s Liquor Division doesn’t track where its customers live.

Jeffrey Anderson, the Division’s director, counters Washington distributors and retailers can only go so far to drop liquor prices.

“While Costco in Clarkston and Spokane may offer a limited number of products at very low prices, we find it difficult to understand how prices will go much lower because there are so many taxes and fees,” he says.

Costco and other large grocers in Washington will start to sell spirits on June 1 of next year. Costco spent more than $22 million on the privatization initiative.

On the Web:

Report - Distribution and sale of liquor in Idaho:
http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/ope/publications/reports/r1108f.pdf

Copyright 2011 Boise State Public Radio