Liquor licenses

Corey Mitchell, front of house manager and bartender at Saint Lawrence Gridiron on Bannock Street in Boise, prepares a cocktail for a customer on Jan. 30.

BOISE — Instead of amending an existing bill to reform Idaho’s liquor licensing law, the Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday directed Sen. Jim Rice to draft a new proposed bill incorporating his intended amendments.

Rice, R-Caldwell, said this process may actually be faster than if the bill followed the traditional method of getting amended. If the bill had been sent to the Senate floor to be amended, committee members intended to send it back to the committee for further discussion.

“Sometimes it takes longer than you want, but the point is to do it right,” Rice said.

The bill in question, SB 1040, would have eliminated the state’s current quota system for issuing liquor licenses based on population and instead gives the control to local cities and counties. It would also offer a 10 percent discount on liquor for current license holders.

“It is such a large change to our current system,” said Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens.

Several weeks ago, the State Affairs Committee voted 6-2 to delay action on the bill after multiple people testified against it, most arguing that the bill would hurt existing license holders by prompting the value of liquor licenses on the secondary market to plummet.

After meeting with current license holders, city officials and other interested individuals, Rice made several changes to the bill, which he presented to the committee Friday morning. Rice said the changes would allow the state to retain control to issue liquor licenses, rather than cities or counties, but it would still eliminate the current quota system.

The state’s quota system of allotting one liquor license for every 1,500 residents has drawn criticism, with some arguing it makes it harder for entrepreneurs to obtain a license in places like Boise. The city has a years-long waiting list for a $750 state-issued liquor license. To skip the wait, business owners could buy a license on the secondary market, which can cost $100,000 or more.

Rice said he plans to maintain the 10 percent discount for current license holders, and there will be a 5 percent discount for specialty establishments, like golf courses and other specific businesses. Most new license holders would not receive a discount for liquor, he said.

Erin Bamer is the city of Nampa reporter. Contact her at 208-465-8193, or ebamer@idahopress.com. Follow on Twitter @ErinBamer. Reporter Savannah Cardon contributed to this report.

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