Utah’s booze business is booming, but supply chain issues and staffing shortages are causing strain at state-run liquor stores.
Every day, around 6,000 bottles of liquor are sold in Utah, with total retail sales up $13 million compared to this time last year, Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control finance director Sean Willford said at Tuesday’s DABC commission meeting. Year-to-date retail sales have climbed to $175 million, higher than the $162 million the department had earned last year at this time.
“What this is showing overall is increased profitability and, of course, a little bit of strain on our retail stores with some short staffing,” Willford told the commission, which oversees alcohol sales and licensing in the Beehive State. “But the numbers are picking up again to 2019 levels and above.”
The Thanksgiving holiday saw record numbers of alcohol sales, he added.
DABC Commissioner Stanley Parrish pointed out that three new state-run liquor stores were added in the past year — in Farmington, Saratoga Springs and Taylorsville — and total sales in the three regions increased.
Commission Chairman Tom Jacobson said operational costs for the DABC have also gone up this year, similar to other wholesale and retail businesses, with higher supply chain and fuel costs and increased labor expenses. But even still, those investments were projected to net more revenue for Utahns this year.
Willford said the DABC returned $214 million to the state’s general fund last year and said 2021 was “on track to do much more than that.”
“Even though we’re spending more, we’re still returning more to the general fund and the local communities,” he said.
Leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, Utahn’s purchased even more alcohol from state stores.
Cade Meier, the deputy director of the DABC, told the commission that during the five days leading up to the holiday, state-run stores saw a nearly 15% increase in business compared to the same period last year.
“There were a few bumps,” he said, because of supply chain issues and staffing shortage. Most state-run stores are not fully staffed, he added, and some were forced to close early.
To keep customers aware of spirits that may be hard to find in state-run liquor stores, the DABC operates a website that tracks supply chain shortages: https://abc.utah.gov/supply-chain-shortages/
“Shop early,” Meier encouraged customers, who he thanked for their patience this year. “Try to go in, make those purchases as soon as you can. I think that will help everyone enjoy the holidays just that much more.”
Utah’s state-run liquor stores are the busiest on the Friday and Saturday before Christmas and the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, he said, with busy hours beginning at 4 p.m.