Jobs May Have Dried Up, But the Booze is Flowing

There wasn’t any lack of Americans enjoying an extended liquid lunch on St. Patrick’s Day. But surprisingly, the one day of the year where everyone suddenly becomes Irish wasn’t a complete aberration.

In an intriguing twist to the frosty economic climate, liquor stores are seeing something of a boom as people enjoy the hard stuff during tough times. Local and state government’s response to the phenomenon? Make alcohol easier to acquire.

The most recent numbers courtesy of the Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) shows some interesting statistics. At bars and restaurants, spirit sales fell 2.2%, not a terrible drop in light of the hit most industries have taken. Spirits consumption at home, on the other hand, has actually increased 2.9%, with the local liquor store enjoying that trend. Beer sales remained flat for the most part, but in Ohio, a state decimated by the economy, sales of liquors containing more than 21% alcohol increased 5% last year. Other states with spikes in liquor sales include Oregon [4%], Idaho [4.7%], New York [4.5% increase in beer and wine between April and September], and Washington [5%]. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania could pierce the $2 billion alcohol sales ceiling for the first time in state history. The common thread appears to be beers waning popularity; even wine sales are up 22% among NASCAR fans. Who knew?

The most intriguing aspect may be how local governments are actually looking to make alcohol more readily available in light of all this drinking. Lubbock, Texas; Georgetown, Kentucky; and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, all cities where selling alcohol on Sundays is illegal, are moving towards reversing that law. Seaman, Ohio, a dry town for generations, is now selling alcohol for the first time and Saint Jo, Texas is exploring a similar move. Throw in the recent sale of alcohol at Kentucky state parks and booze may never have been easier to get. Bottoms up.  

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