State liquor sales have surged since privatization

Clark County booze sales unclear

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

Updated: December 4, 2012, 8:04 PM

 

Washington’s hard-liquor sales increased from a year earlier during the first four months of privatization, the state reported today, despite higher booze prices and a rush of buying before the June 1 start of private sales.

Spirits sales by volume were 2.9 percent higher in the four months ending in September, according to the state Department of Revenue. Nearly 13.6 million liters were sold in the period compared to 13.2 million liters during the same four months a year earlier, when state liquor stores were in operation.

Private liquor sales went into effect June 1, the result of Initiative 1183, passed by voters in 2011.

The revenue department reported the average retail price of spirits is higher, a consequence of new state fees that increased liquor prices by 11.6 percent over the state-run system’s costs.

The average retail price of a liter of spirits, including taxes, was $24.09 in September, compared to $21.58 at state liquor stores a year earlier. That’s about $2 more for a standard 750 ml bottle, or fifth.

In the first four months of private liquor sales, Washington consumers bought 7.9 percent more booze for total sales of $263 million, up 23 percent from $214 million during the same period last year.

It is unclear whether booze sales followed the state trend in Clark County, a border county that offers easy access to Oregon’s cheaper state-run liquor system. Washington’s revenue department does not track spirit sales and the state liquor taxes collected by county, according to Mike Gowrylow, the agency’s communications director.

But he’s received anecdotal reports of weaker liquor sales along the borders of Oregon and Idaho.

“How much weaker, we just don’t know yet,” Gowrylow said.

Oregon liquor store operators have reported more Washington booze shoppers since the June 1 switch.

While liquor sales to individual consumers increased across Washington, sales to bars and restaurants were down 12.6 percent in the first four months of privatization, according the revenue department. It expects sales to rise again as bars use up stockpiles.