Words & Deeds

Idaho’s bars are rocking. These 10 crush the most liquor in Boise. One just set a record

Pull up a bar stool and bat your eyelashes, dude. Chances are, somebody will buy you a cocktail.

After all, liquor sales to Idaho bars and restaurants grew 6.1 percent in the Idaho State Liquor Division’s fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30.

Is that a staggering statistic? Possibly, after you choke down a couple of warm Cuervo shots.

Liquor Division CFO Tony Faraca calls it “a very strong number.”

“The best I’ve seen in my 10 years at the Division,” he adds. “... We’ve had people moving here for a while now. It just seems people obviously are going out a lot more.”

In Boise, no bar or restaurant obliterates more liquor than Barbacoa Grill, 276 W. Bobwhite Court. Despite being a couple miles southeast of Downtown, the entertainment mecca blew through booze like bottled water in fiscal 2018. It’s nothing new. Barbacoa led the entire state’s liquor expenditures in the 2017 bar sales report. Maybe the restaurant’s famed Medusa statue is drinking after the place closes at night.

Either way, somebody better call Guinness. (World Records, not the beer. Beer and wine aren’t handled by the Liquor Division.) Barbacoa bought 18,736 bottles of spirits in the past 12 months. That’s more than any Boise bar and restaurant ever has — and about 1,500 more bottles than the city’s No. 2 finisher, Bardenay.

When it comes to dollars spent, Barbacoa dominated the local competition like a bouncer on steroids. Barbacoa spent $398,954, nearly $120,000 more than Boise’s runner-up, China Blue/Dirty Little Roddy’s, which dropped $279,961.

Here are the top 10 in the Treasure Valley ranked by bottles purchased:

1. Barbacoa, 18,736; 2. Bardenay (Boise), 17,272; 3. China Blue/Dirty Little Roddy’s, 14,559; 4. Mulligan’s/Olympic, 14,249; 5. Cactus Bar, 12,684; 6. Silly Birch/Whiskey Bar, 12,143; 7. Hannah’s, 11,613; 8. Reef/The Brickyard/The Front Door, 11,015; 9. Fatty’s, 10,557; 10. Knitting Factory, 9,451.

Notice how sometimes adjacent bars are grouped together? It’s because they’re operating under a single liquor license from a holder who owns or leases all the retail spaces.

Here are the top 10 in the Treasure Valley ranked by dollars spent:

1. Barbacoa, $398,954; 2. China Blue/Dirty Little Roddy’s, $279,961; 3. Silly Birch/Whiskey Bar, $262,505; 4. Reef/The Brickyard/The Front Door, $198,867; 5. Matador, $195,949; 6. Amsterdam Lounge, $195,481; 7. Chandlers, $190,911; 8. Hannah’s, $186,847; Casa Del Matador (Meridian), $181,613; Bardenay (Boise), $180,332.

Put down your drink. Fire up your phone’s calculator. If you divide dollars spent by number of bottles, Barbacoa spent an average of a little over $21 per bottle. That’s spendy, but Chandlers stocked the top shelf even more, dropping over $26 per bottle.

Welcome to Swillville. The Cactus spent a bit over $11 per bottle. Hey, are they still pouring $2 well drinks? Bring on the hangover!

An exception to the cost-versus-bottle-number quality comparison is Bardenay, which paid an average of less than $10.50 per bottle. Distilling its own liquor means Bardenay winds up paying lower-than-normal prices for house spirits. Ka-ching!

Despite Barbacoa seemingly pouring booze down a secret sinkhole, you have to head north for Idaho’s biggest liquor buyers.

When it came to volume, nobody topped the Couer d’Alene Resort and Conference Center, which picked up the tab for 19,398 bottles costing $363,879. (With the mark-up on liquor, what do you suppose that is? A cool zillion in sales?) Meanwhile, high rollers at Sun Valley Resort topped dollars spent in Idaho with $480,469 for 17,341 bottles.

Is all my bar-napkin calculus making your dome ache? Mine, too.

Meet me at the Cactus. I’m buying, as long as you get the next round at Chandlers.

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