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A toast to Sunday sales in Nampa

Nampa’s first Sunday of liquor-by-the-drink sales came and went on Jan. 31, heralded by news media across the Treasure Valley as a boon to business owners.

Zach Hagadone

Zach Hagadone

According to reports, patrons happily bellied up for brunch-time Bloody Marys and quaffed pre-, intra-, and post-dinner spirits with little incident. This is good news.

The ordinance change, which was passed by the Nampa City Council on Dec. 18, reversed longtime restrictions on Sunday sales, and came about a year after the Canyon County Commission allowed select liquor stores to ply their trade on the Day of Rest.

Some say it’s wrong on health and safety – even moral – grounds, while others point out that beer and wine could already be purchased by the glass on Sunday, and liquor could be had at state-run or contract stores.

The rule change keeps tipplers from driving to neighboring towns to do their drinking, proponents add, which keeps the roads safer and the dollars local.

Regardless of where you stand on the ethical or public safety arguments, the bottom line is that demand for hard alcohol is up and allowing bar and restaurant sales on Sunday lets Nampan proprietors provide the supply.

According to the Idaho State Liquor Division’s 2009 Annual Report, 9.9 million bottles of spirits were sold during fiscal year 2009, resulting in gross sales of just over $135 million. That’s compared to FY ’08 sales of $130.8 million – an increase of 3.3 percent. Gross profit from 2009 sales topped $64 million, with net income pegged at $46.2 million. Compare that to profits of $45.1 million for FY ’08.

But at the same time, revenue from sales at restaurants and bars declined as customers bought more, and cheaper, liquor off the shelf for home consumption.

Discount (on premise) liquor sales – the portion of the Idaho State Liquor Dispensary’s sales that go to bars and restaurants – were about $30.4 million in FY ‘09, down from $31.5 million the year before.

That trend was most evident in the Treasure Valley, the report stated, likely due to significant job losses over the year.

But unemployment and its subsequent belt-tightening notwithstanding, those figures also cover a time in which the state’s second largest city wouldn’t allow patrons to order a highball on Sunday.

And while one extra day of sales might seem paltry, consider the impact that county-option Sunday store sales have had in the 29 counties which allow them: In the fiscal year ended June 30, 2009, Sunday packaged liquor sales garnered more than $3.5 million in revenue – twice the total of the previous fiscal year.

And those numbers translate into a positive impact on various funds and programs – as well as state and local government budgets – which need all the additional revenue they can get.

According to the report, the Liquor Division distributed a sum of nearly $45.2 million over the year, with more than $16.4 million (36.4 percent) going to cities. Almost $11 million (24.2 percent) went to counties, and nearly $9.6 million (21.2 percent) went to the state’s general fund.

Ada County by far received the most in distributions, coming in at more than $7.4 million in FY ’09. Kootenai County, in northern Idaho, came in second with about $3.9 million in distributions. Canyon County, though relatively new to Sunday sales, garnered almost $1.7 million during the year.

About $3.26 million went to support court services, while more than $2 million went to the Substance Abuse Treatment Fund and $1.2 million went to public schools. The remainder was distributed to the Cooperative Welfare Fund, community colleges and the Court Supervision Fund.

But, while I think it’s a good thing that revenue from liquor sales gets plowed back into budgets and programs that, ideally, benefit us all, I’m not suggesting we drink ourselves to prosperity – the numbers suggest Idahoans wouldn’t think to do that anyway.

According to the report, the Gem State drinks less hard alcohol than both the national average and its fellow control states: per capita consumption in Idaho was 1.32 gallons for calendar year 2008, compared with the 1.46 gallon national average and 1.33 gallons for all control states.

I do think it’s only reasonable for Nampa to give its local bar owners and restaurateurs the option of offering spirits on any day they choose – something Caldwell has yet to do.

To continue the Sunday restriction on liquor-by-the-glass sales in Nampa would have made local proprietors less competitive and encouraged the continued flow of local dollars to surrounding cities.

In this economic climate, and in unemployment-plagued Canyon County, Nampa’s decision to stop withholding an opportunity for local businesses to maximize profits was the right one.


About Zach Hagadone

42 comments

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