Idaho Striving To Privatize Liquor

SPOKANE, Wash. - Idaho could be the next state to privatize liquor sales, right behind Washington.

In November, Washington voters said "yes" to taking liquor sales out of the hands of the government. Idaho could be the next state to get liquor at big box stores.

Just as Costco pushed the initiative in Washington, the grocery industry is pushing to privatize liquor in Idaho.

Enoteca is a business in Post Falls that offers more than a thousand bottles of wine. They hope the initiative will be passed in Idaho and their inventory will expand.

"It would be exciting, it would be an exciting opportunity," said Sarah Mann, the owner of Enoteca.

Last month, the Northwest Grocery Association met with Governor Butch Otter to learn how to put together a voter initiative to privatize liquor sales in Idaho.

To get the initiative on the ballot, the association needs 47,432 registered voter signatures by April 30.

Mann says the association can count on having her signature.

"It's an opportunity to grow and to change with it," said Mann. "I'm pretty sure it will happen over time."

Idaho has 66 state run liquor stores and 97 contracted stores.

The Idaho State Liquor Division says it will continue to provide the highest level of customer service.

But some customers say they don't see enough good customer service in state-run liquor stores.

Susan McKee-Nugent lives in Idaho and says she supports the move to privatize liquor.

"I think it would be very important we would get more variety and it hopefully would be cheaper," she said.

The Washington initiative limits the sale of liquor to stores over 10,000 square feet, with very few exceptions. However, Mann hopes the proposed regulations in Idaho will include smaller stores, such as hers.

"I really like hard to find gin, so I would just do cool stuff like that it would be fun," said Mann.

To get that many signatures by April, proponents would need a financial backer, like Costco. The company spent a record breaking $22-million to pass the measure in Washington.

Idaho made $50-million in liquor sales last year alone.