Should liquor in NH continue to be sold only in state-run stores?

Oct 24, 2017

BY: Citizens Count

In New Hampshire, beer, wine, and fortified wine can be sold at grocery or convenience stores. However, the state has a monopoly on sales of hard alcohol.

Liquor sales in New Hampshire are limited to 80 state-run stores, managed by the state liquor commission.

An important source of revenue

Fiscal year 2017 saw the NH Liquor and Wine Outlets setting an all-time high sales record of almost $700 million.

That netted the state $155 million in profit. The bulk of the money was transferred to the state’s general fund, with $3 million going to the Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Treatment Fund.

Efforts to abolish NH’s state monopoly

With such large dollars at stake, the issue of privatizing liquor sales has been hotly contested for decades.

The most recent legislative attempt to do away with New Hampshire's monopoly on liquor sales was in 2009, with a bill that would have allowed grocery and liquor stores to sell hard booze. It was killed in the House.

Leave well enough alone

Those in favor the status quo note that profits from liquor sales make up almost 6.5% of state revenues. Losing that money would mean cutting state services or raising other taxes.

Others argue deregulation would lead to higher incidents of alcohol abuse, and as a result, crime rates and the costs of healthcare would rise.

Lastly, state control allows liquor to be sold at a lower price than in other retail outlets. New Hampshire Liquor Stores therefore attract customers from out-of-state, boosting tourism.

Private industry can do it better

The proponents of privatization say private industry can run businesses better than the government. They argue that the combination of money, alcohol and government can lead to corruption, noting contract rigging and missing inventory scandals that have plagued the state liquor commission over the past several years.

Others contend that removing government control will not only improve consumer choice, but increase convenience and lower costs through competition. Meanwhile, the loss of revenue would be somewhat offset by the upfront financial boost the state would receive from the sale of its liquor and wine outlets.

Do government, money and alcohol mix? Tell us what you think!

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