Booze Profits 

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Liquor store closings are imminent because, for too long, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has been treated like the bastard child of the state. No one wants to acknowledge that liquor stores exist, yet the Legislature depends on the revenue they generate for the state coffers every year.

It is time the DABC is treated like what it is: A retail business owned by the state, and a paradigm shift is needed to reflect that reality. In a time when the state is desperately looking for more revenue, it makes more sense to increase sales and profit rather than cut budgets.

My husband, who works at a store that is going to close, and I did some quick math to figure out how to make enough new revenue to cover the $600,000 that DABC has to cut from its budget. Based on a conservative average of 5,000 bottles of liquor sold per week at each store (a low-ball estimate of what is sold at his store), a 5 cent increase per bottle would bring in an additional $611,000.

Those numbers are extremely conservative, as he is in a smaller, single-shift store, and it also doesn’t account for a holiday bump.

The state is sitting on a cash cow. With a minor increase per bottle across the board, the DABC could not only cover the amount it is being asked to cut but also put additional funds into the general fund. But because the DABC is funded like every other state agency, it is bound by the operating budget approved by the Legislature each year. If it had the flexibility to make this change, it would not require any additional funding. The stores already do price changes every month for other reasons.

I am realistic enough to understand that there is probably nothing that can change this current situation and the stores will be shut down with little notice by the majority of Utahns. But with the current economy, it is time to revisit the status quo and start thinking outside of “it’s always been that way” box.

Angela Waagen
Salt Lake City

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