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Utah loses millions in liquor sales

Posted at 2:32 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 18:53:58-04

SALT LAKE CITY — For the second month in a row, Utah's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has reported millions in lost sales.

At its monthly commission meeting, the DABC reported a $6.2 million loss over last year. It is the second month in a row the agency, which controls the sale and supply of alcohol in Utah, has reported losses.

There are a number of reasons, DABC Executive Director Sal Petilos told the commission. Last year's law change that moved heavier beers from state-run liquor stores to grocery and convenience stores is still having an impact. So is the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants and bars are only purchasing 60% of what they once did. The DABC has also been forced to limit store hours as a result of staffing shortages.

Right now, liquor stores open at 11 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Starting next month, some stores will expand hours until 10 p.m.

"We changed our operating hours during the pandemic and hopefully the phased approach of getting back to the normal hours in the stores will help with the traffic we get," Petilos said. "Additionally there are also industry-wide issues."

Those issues include more people buying alcohol nationwide so less product available in Utah, which is not a heavy drinking state. Petilos said some product was not available in the DABC's inventory warehouse.

The DABC recently cleared a half-billion in liquor sales even in the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a cash cow for state government. As a liquor control state with alcohol sold at cost plus an 88% markup, the proceeds from sales go to school lunches for children in need, public safety agencies and the bulk to the state's general fund.