Idaho State Liquor Division

Idaho Wine Commission prepares legislation for 2018 session
By Marissa Morrison
December 4, 2017

BOISE, ID – Wine makers around Idaho have their own state agency watching out for their best interests. The Idaho Wine Commission pours their energy into promoting all Idaho wineries and grape growers.

“There’s a lot of comradery, because if your winery wins, my winery wins,” Executive Director Moya Dolsby said.

The commission is working on legislation for the upcoming session that they say would help grow the industry.

One bill in the works would allow businesses to create their own private label. If that legislation passes, restaurants and companies could purchase wine from local wineries and put the name of their own business on the label.

“I think that would help them for marketing purposes, and wineries could sell more wine that way,” Dolsby said.

The commission is also working on a bill to streamline the licensing process for wineries.

“Can a winery just get their state license and call it good?” Dolsby said. “It would be like having to get a drivers license in the county and the city you live in. That would be ridiculous, but that’s basically what we’re asking of the wineries.”

Idaho’s 52 wineries produce about 250,000 cases of wine with Idaho grapes grown on roughly 1,300 acres.

The commission hopes passing the legislation will take them closer to reaching their goals.

“My goal for ten years is to have 100 wineries, 10,000 acres and make a million cases of wine,” Dolsby said. “We’ll see. I think we can get there.”

The 2018 Legislative Session starts Jan. 8.

Idaho “Sticker shock” campaign aims to curb underage holiday drinking
By Steve Bertel
November 14, 2017

BOISE, ID – State officials are hoping to use “sticker shock” to stop underage drinking this holiday season –- in a statewide campaign by the Idaho Office of Drug Policy, the State Liquor Division and 22 community prevention organizations.

The youth-led “Sticker Shock” public awareness campaign starts Friday, November 24th in sixty liquor stores throughout Idaho. Organizers say its goal is bringing more public attention to the issue of underage drinking — and the adults who provide alcohol to minors.

Student volunteers will place the stickers on the bags that customers use to carry their purchases from liquor stores. The “Think Twice or Pay the Price” stickers stand out on the store bags, and provides the reminder: “If You Provide Alcohol to Minors, You Could Face up to $1,000 in Fines and up to one year in Jail.”

“We know that 42.2 percent of Idaho youth who drink underage usually obtain alcohol by someone giving it to them, including through adults 21 and older who can purchase it legally,” said Nicole Fitzgerald, Administrator of the Idaho Office of Drug Policy.

“The Idaho State Liquor Division is proud to support this effort that’s of great benefit to the entire Gem State,” Division Administrator Jeff Anderson said. “We know that underage drinking doesn’t start with a drink; it starts with an excuse by adults -– the excuses they make when they think it’s harmless to provide beverage alcohol to underage people. ‘We did it when we were young,’ ‘It’s just beer.’ We’ve all heard the excuses. The bottom line is it’s not OK to give alcohol to people under 21.”

The Office of Drug Policy and the State Liquor Division leaders hope raising awareness about underage drinking, at the point of liquor sales, will help the message “stick.”

The Northwest Alcohol Conference Brings in Expert Speakers on Drug Abuse Prevention
October 2, 2017

On October 2nd, the Northwest Alcohol Conference, hosted its first Idaho Drug Symposium, boasting over 150 attendees, at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Courses included: Trials and Tribulations for DRE’s Regarding Todays Evolving Drug Culture, Chuck Hayes & Robert Hayes, Marijuana Trends, Products, Concentrates and More, Officer Jermaine Galloway, and Current Drug Trends (including Heroin) – Riding the Perpetual Merry-Go-Round, Amy Miles. Tomorrow’s courses include: The Dopamine/Drug Use Connection: Why Youth Are At the Highest Risk, Karen Williams, Fentanyl, Fentanyl Analogs, Carfentanil, U-47700, Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals & Other Dangerous Substances, Dan Zsido, and Rolling Stoned: The Oregon Experience (Deena Ryerson) sponsored by HIDTA.

The Idaho Drug Symposium has many sponsors for this educational event. These sponsors include: Oregon – Idaho HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas), Idaho Office of Drug Policy, NABCA (National Alcohol Beverage Control Association), and the Idaho State Liquor Division. Find us on Twitter and Facebook at #nowacds2017 @nowac2

More information:

Please save the date for the 8th Biennial Northwest Alcohol Conference July 18-20, 2018 at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Registration opens December 1, 2017.

Jessica Galloway, Registration Coordinator
Northwest Alcohol Conference

Idaho In Good Spirits, State Sells Record Amount Of Booze
Boise State Public Radio
By Matt Guilhem
July 27, 2017

Figures from the Idaho State Liquor Division show the state sold the most alcohol ever in the fiscal year that just wrapped up June 30. One takeaway from the data is it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere in Idaho. Sales were up 6.5 percent to over 203 million dollars. Measuring by another standard, the state moved some 12.2 million bottles.

Tony Faraca, the CFO at the State Liquor Division, tells the Statesman the rise in alcohol sales is probably linked to a growing population and good economy instead of an unquenchable thirst. Faraca says southern Idaho is buying the most hooch; sales in the Treasure Valley are up almost 10 percent.

Out-of-state purchasers make up around 7 percent of total Idaho liquor sales. After Washington switched from state-run liquor stores to private operations in 2012, prices went up and Washingtonians started crossing the border to get their potent potables.

Idaho residents are also apparently not buying the cheap stuff. Because dollar sales rose faster than bottle sales, that illustrates people spending more for premium liquor rather than bottom-shelf, plastic bottle booze.

By volume, Idaho’s most popular spirit last year was vodka. However, the best performers in terms of dollars were all whiskeys. First was Fireball, followed by Crown Royal, with Jack Daniels rounding out the top three.

Faraca says the numbers show one of the spirits heating up and primed to be the next big thing is Mezcal.

Idaho’s small but growing artisan liquor distillers celebrate their craft
By Betsy Z. Russell
July 5, 2017

BOISE – You might have thought it was just July, but officially, in Idaho, it’s also Idaho Spirits Month.

That’s spirits, as in vodka, rum, gin, whiskey and brandy.

Gov. Butch Otter issued a proclamation designating the month, and recognizing the “rapidly growing craft spirits industry comprised of small, family owned businesses such as those producing the majority of new private-sector jobs in the United States.”

Craft distillers in Idaho last year formed the Idaho Distillers Association to showcase their products and craft. While it’s relatively small compared with the craft distilling industry in neighboring states Washington, Oregon and Montana, the new association already has nine members.

“This will be an important yearly event that will allow Idaho distilleries to highlight the value of their products to Idaho consumers and to the state economy,” said Ken Wyatt, association president and co-founder of 44 Degrees North Vodka. “Eventually, we hope that Idaho Spirits Month will grow over time to join Idahoans and visitors in the celebration of the diverse bounty that the state has to offer in the realm of spirits as well as restaurants and nightlife.”

Wyatt’s signature product is vodka made from a famous Idaho product – potatoes. The distillery also uses Brundage winter wheat.

“44° North Vodka utilizes Idaho’s great agricultural wealth to produce the purest vodka possible,” the distillery says on its website. “To achieve a smooth and distinctive taste we distill directly from 100% Idaho potatoes or Brundage Winter Wheat blended with Rocky Mountain Spring Water. To naturally infuse our flavored varieties, we use only all-natural Idaho Mountain Huckleberries, Rainier Cherries and Sunnyslope Nectarines.”

Other distillers in the association have similar approaches. 8 Feathers Distillery in Boise says it produces “premium, small batch spirits made from the purest water and the finest grains locally sourced in Idaho.” Mill Town Artisan Distillery in Sandpoint promises, “If we don’t grow it, we source it local.”

Idaho distillers can offer tours of their distilleries, and if they’re also licensed bars, they can sell their wares by the drink. But in most cases, they can’t sell them by the bottle. Under Idaho’s state liquor laws, bottled spirits are available only at state liquor stores.

So during July, state liquor stores will feature special displays of Idaho-made craft spirits. And the distilleries themselves will hold special events including tasting room and promotional events in bars and restaurants around the state.

That’s possible in part because a special Idaho law that passed in 2014 made it legal for Idaho distillers of spirits to have tasting rooms at their distilleries, but only under certain conditions: Each sample can’t exceed a quarter of an ounce; only those age 21 or older can sample, only three samples per person may be given in a 24-hour period, and – it’s right there in the law – the samples must be free.

The other members of the Idaho association are Bardenay, with three restaurant-distillery locations around the state including one in Coeur d’Alene; Up North Distillery, with cocktails, tours and tastings in Post Falls; Corson Distillers in Boise; Distilled Resources Inc. in Ketchum; Koenig Distillery and Winery in Caldwell; and Warfield Distillery & Brewery in Ketchum.

University of Idaho to ask ed board for game alcohol sales
June 14, 2017

LEWISTON, Idaho – (AP) – Officials at University of Idaho, Boise State University and Idaho State University will ask the State Board of Education for permission to allow alcohol sales at home football games this year.

The board denied similar requests from UI and BSU last year.

If the request is granted, the universities would be able to allow alcohol sales at a few specific locations – such as UI’s “Fan Zone” – before games.

UI spokeswoman Jodi Walker told the Lewiston Tribune that the school will also ask the board for clarification on its policy on alcohol consumption in university parking lots. People often bring their own alcoholic beverages to tailgate parties, and Walker said a clarification would allow police to focus on monitoring behavior.

The Board of Education meets Thursday in Coeur d’Alene.

New Idaho Liquor Laws Prompts Lawsuit From Bar Owners
By Kimberlee Kruesi
April 13, 2017

BOISE – Bar owners in southwest Idaho say the state owes them a reimbursement now that lawmakers have tweaked rules surrounding serving alcohol at explicit live performances.

Shannon Fairchild and Levi Burden, owners of The Intersection in New Meadows, sued the Idaho State Police earlier this year hoping to recoup the fines they paid for violating the state’s strict liquor laws.

In 2015, state police fined Fairchild and Burden for serving alcohol during a burlesque show. The owners say the state’s laws have since changed and they deserve assurance they won’t be punished again for holding a similar performance in the future.

Idaho law currently bans serving alcohol during nude or sexual explicit live performances. However, that law was amended this year to exempt certain businesses that do not primarily derive its business from explicit live adult entertainment.

House passes SB 1144, the Senate-passed liquor-nudity bill; prepares to debate grocery tax repeal
By Betsy Z. Russell
Monday, March 27, 2017

The House came back on the floor, and received the Rev & Tax Committee’s recommendation in favor of concurring with the Senate amendments to HB 67, the grocery tax repeal bill. The House then agreed by unanimous consent to concur in those Senate amendments. The amended bill still needs to be debated and voted on.

In the meantime, the House took up SB 1144. That’s the bill designed to settle a lawsuit from the Visual Arts Collective against the Idaho State Police over liquor laws and nudity. It’s the original, Senate-passed bill – not the new version introduced this morning in the House Ways & Means Committee by Rep. Lynn Luker. And it passed on a 65-5 vote, with Luker among the “yes” votes. The only “no” votes came from Reps. Harris, Hartgen, King, Monks and VanderWoude. (Hartgen later asked to change his vote to “yes.”)

Now the House has gone back at ease – and Senate Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, announced that when it returns, it’ll debate and vote on HB 67a, the grocery tax repeal bill.

Bill Lifting Some Alcohol Restrictions Moves to Idaho House
By Kimberlee Kruesi
Thursday, March 23 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A conservatively-dominant House panel on Thursday narrowly approved legislation repealing Idaho’s ban on nudity and explicit live performances at certain businesses licensed to serve alcohol.

The proposal is part of a legal settlement between the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and the state attorney general’s office. The exemption requires that such performances would have to be held at venues like a theater, concert hall or some other form of businesses that do not primarily derive its business from explicit live adult entertainment. That means Idaho businesses like strip clubs would still be banned from serving alcohol.

“If there was a bar who changed their business model to include ‘Shakespeare in the Buff’ and that becomes their predominant business model, then I can’t say they would or not would be cited because undercover officers would have to look at the legitimacy of that claim,” said Cynthia Yee-Wallace, a deputy attorney with the attorney general’s office. “Are they saying it’s ‘Shakespeare in the Buff’? Or are they just naked and reading Shakespeare on stage?

The House State Affairs Committee, arguably made up of the most conservative members in the Legislature, voted 8-6 to send the exemption bill to the House floor without discussing the bill.

Prior to the bill’s hearing, Chairman Tom Loertscher requested that all young people — many of whom were high school groups visiting the Capitol — in the audience leave the room because they would be discussing sensitive subjects, including the teenage pages.

“The language in here is quite graphic,” said Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird.

Last year, two undercover Idaho State Police detectives were served alcohol while watching a burlesque show performed by Anne McDonald at Boise’s Visual Arts Collective in March. The ISP then filed a complaint alleging that the art gallery failed to prevent the exposure of some parts of the female performers’ bodies in violation of state law.

Idaho lawmakers had just repealed a similar section of the same law for Idaho movie theaters after a theater sued when its liquor license was threatened for showing “Fifty Shades of Grey” while serving alcohol. However, the Republican-dominated Legislature did not repeal the ban on live performances.

This oversight prompted the ACLU to file a lawsuit against the state arguing that the current statute is too broad and violated the First Amendment’s free speech protections. That lawsuit has since been placed on hold to allow the Legislature to repeal certain sections of the state’s strict liquor laws.

SB 1144 must pass the House before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

Northern Idaho lawmaker introduces new liquor license plan
March 4, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – A northern Idaho lawmaker has introduced legislation to change the state’s 70-year-old system of doling out liquor licenses.

Under Idaho’s current law, a single liquor license is allowed for every 1,500 residents of cities. This quota system has resulted in long waiting lists, spawning complaints that system meant to promote “temperance and morality” has instead created bidding wars and rewards speculators.

Rep. Luke Malek, a Republican from Coeur d’Alene, says that system is unjust and needs to be changed.

Malek’s bill, introduced Friday, would create a new tier of licenses for restaurants that want to sell liquor by the drink. Cities and counties would be allowed to sell these licenses.

The last time the Legislature attempted to reform the state’s liquor license system was in 2009, which failed despite having the support of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Idaho Wine Commission presents to House Agricultural Committee
By Marissa Morrison
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Idaho’s wine industry is harvesting the fruits of their labor thanks to help from the Idaho Wine Commission.

The commission acts as a liaison between Idaho’s wine growers, producers and the legislature. Wednesday, the commission presented their goals for the year to the House Agricultural Affairs Committee.

Goals include amending Idaho code to match federal regulations on the alcohol content in what is considered “dessert wine” and clarifying language for permits needed to start a winery in the state.

According to the commission, about 12 percent of all the wine Idahoans drink was produced in Idaho, but the commission says they’re looking to grow their shares.

“We’re here to promote all Idaho wineries and vineyards,” says executive director Moya Shatz Dolsby said. “The best way [people] can do that is by buying Idaho wine, buying and asking for it. When you go out to a restaurant, ask for an Idaho wine. Do you have any Idaho wine? And if not, order a diet coke.”

The commission estimates the economic impact of Idaho’s wine industry is about $200 million. Idaho currently has 52 wineries and five cideries.

The Idaho wine commission is a self-governing state agency funded through the wine excise tax, voluntary assessments, grants and events.

Plan for two new state liquor stores in Treasure Valley draws question in JFAC
The Spokesman – Review
By Betsy Z. Russell
Monday, February 6, 2017

Idaho’s state Liquor Division has a proposal to add two new stores in the Treasure Valley next year to address market growth and development patterns in the area. That would take Idaho from 66 to 68 state-owned liquor stores, the first increase since 2009; roughly 35 of those stores are located in the Treasure Valley, including both Ada and Canyon counties. The division also is proposing some remodeling work and possibly relocation of some existing stores whose leases are up, depending on bids and market studies. Sen. Dean Mortimer, R-Idaho Falls, questioned the request, along with another to standardize hours at stores in the same communities by adding hours at some stores.

“I’ve got some concerns,” Mortimer said during the division’s budget hearing this morning. “I really question the return. … If it’s just a matter of convenience, I’m not sure I want to expend our dollars for convenience.”

State Liquor Division Director Jeff Anderson, who also serves as director of the state Lottery Commission, two state agencies that used to each have their own director, said the changes would bring very significant return on investment.

“We believe if we’re going to be in this business, we should be in it and be responsible, and serve the patrons,” Anderson said. “We haven’t asked for new stores since I’ve been there.” He’s headed the liquor division since 2010.

Anderson offered some examples of store moves in the past that brought big returns. “These may not be entirely fair comparisons,” he said. “We had a store in Wallace, Idaho, that was trending down,” with sales around $400,000 a year. That store was converted to a contract store, run by a private-sector contractor, and that state-operated store was moved to Stateline, Idaho. “And the $400,000 became $8 million,” Anderson said. Amid some laughter, he said, “That’s not a fair comparison, but I had to get it in there.”

In another instance, the division had a store in Weiser whose lease was coming due, and the store had sales of around $400,000. That one also was converted to a contract store, and the state store was moved to 10 Mile and Ustick roads, “where Meridian and Nampa are starting to meet. That $400,000 store became $2 million or $2.5 million,” Anderson said.

“The ones that we’re going to establish in the Treasure Valley may not be as profound as those two in terms of the differences,” he said. “But still … consumers are overwhelmingly responsible consumers. To ask someone to drive four or five miles of two-lane road to get to Overland and Five Mile just doesn’t seem right. I understand your concern,” he told Mortimer, who responded, “Thank you,” “but we think it’s good business practice,” Anderson said.

He added, “We take our responsibility seriously.”

As a control state, Idaho controls all sales of hard liquor in the state, serving as the only wholesaler of distilled spirits, the operator of state-owned liquor stores, the overseer of contract stores, and the wholesaler to licensed premises that sell liquor by the drink. The Liquor Division isn’t involved with beer or wine sales.

The division returned $68.7 million in proceeds to the state in fiscal year 2016, and is forecasting the fiscal 2017 distribution at $72.2 million.

“We are citizen-owned for the benefit of all,” Anderson told JFAC. “Idaho’s model of distilled spirits distribution works for all citizens,” he said, and has resulted in lower per-capita consumption of spirits in Idaho and far fewer outlets selling hard liquor per capita than in non-control states.

“Idaho per-capita consumption remains well below national averages, and even less when we factor out cross-border sales to Washington state,” Anderson said.

Idaho House Panel Introduces New Liquor License Bill
The Washington Times
By Kimberlee Kruesi
Tuesday, January 17, 2017

BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Idaho bars with liquor licenses would be required to be open at least 20 hours a week and must sell at least 20 drinks per week under a new proposal introduced in an Idaho House panel on Tuesday.

Under Idaho’s current law, a single liquor license is allowed for every 1,500 residents of cities. This quota system has resulted in long waiting lists, spawning complaints that the 69-year-old system meant to instill “temperance and morality” has instead created bidding wars, rewarding speculators while punishing the patient.

The average going price for a liquor license in Ketchum, a resort city in central Idaho, is $233,000. In Boise, a license can go as high as $160,000.

“It’s a system that needs to flow, but it’s not flowing because we’re stuck,” said Idaho State Police Capt. Russ Wheatley, who introduced the bill to the Idaho House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee.

Liquor licenses must be placed into use for the first six months, but there is no requirement after that time period, Wheatley added.