Idaho Liquor Stores Could See Boost After Washington Changes

May 30, 2012

Washington retailers are getting ready for the 78-year-old state monopoly on liquor sales to end this Friday. It’s not yet clear what privatization will do to the price of alcohol in Washington. One entity with a big stake in the matter is the state of Idaho.

Some of Idaho’s most profitable state-run liquor stores just happen to be along its northwestern border.

“And when we went up to visit those stores, we look at IDs, we’re looking at license plates -- they’re coming from Washington,” says Jared Tatro, a researcher with the Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations. And lately he’s been trying to evaluate what privatization in Washington means for the performance of Idaho’s liquor trade.

On the one hand, Washington consumers will have hundreds of new places to buy booze. But the law also comes with new retailer and distributor fees -- on top of the highest liquor sales tax in the country. Tatro says if it leads higher prices, the Washington law might be a boon for Idaho’s lesser-taxed liquor stores.

“So that’s where I think the big question mark really comes in, as we see it,” he says.

Idaho liquor regulators have been mulling over whether to open new stores along the border. They’re waiting to see what happens in Washington before they make that decision.

On the Web:

Washington State Liquor Control Board:

Idaho State Liquor Division:

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