Idaho state liquor officials say Washington's newly privatized liquor market is giving a boost to Idaho's already-rising liquor sales.
The surge in Idaho border-store sales mirrors a surge in Oregon, where sales near the Washington border rose 35 percent in June, bringing Oregon $870,000 more than usual. That's just a hair more than Idaho's border-store sales increase last month. Oregon, like Idaho, has a state-run liquor market.
Washington voters last year approved privatization of the state's liquor business, opening up liquor sales to grocery stores and other retailers. That came with a new 10 percent distributor fee plus a 17 percent retail fee to replace money the state lost when it shut down its state-run liquor stores. The result was higher prices for consumers at many retail outlets.
Idaho sold about $153.6 million worth of booze in the 2012 fiscal year that ended June 30. That was the equivalent of 968,000 cases of a dozen 750-milliliter bottles and a one-year rise of 6.7 percent, said Jeff Anderson, who heads the State Liquor Division.
The state broke its record for net income on liquor sales, earning $55.5 million or about 10 percent more than in fiscal 2011. That's partly because people paid more for each bottle, "trading up to premium and super-premium products," Anderson said.
But it's also likely because of Washington shoppers driving across the border for lower prices. The eight Idaho-run stores near Washington sold about 33 percent more liquor in June than the same month last year, Anderson said. The state's overall June sales were 14 percent higher.
Anderson noted, though, that this year's June had five weekends, while last year's had four and weekends are prime time for selling booze. But all things being equal, the border stores still sold significantly more than they did in June 2011. July is showing the same trends so far, he said.
The border rush is busiest in a Post Falls store the one closest to Spokane. That store has been swamped, and another store might have to be opened there to handle all the customers, Anderson said. Clerks there are selling two to three times more liquor than usual, and they're on pace to sell nearly five times as much this year.
"The market there [in Washington] is still trying to find equilibrium" in its prices, he said.
Jonathan J. Cooper of the Associated Press contributed.