State officials say liquor sales bounced back in July

After statewide liquor sales dropped last June as Washington’s privatization law took effect, new numbers show liquor retail made a comeback in July, according to the state Department of Revenue.

Sales by volume increased 15.4 percent in July 2012 from the same month one year ago. But state officials cautioned that more months of data would be needed to establish a trend.

While overall sales increased in July, statewide year-over-year sales in restaurants and bars fell 4.2 percent.

Washington voters approved Initiative 1183 in 2011, opening the door for private liquor retailers.

During the first month of privatization in June, total retail sales dropped 9.4 percent—sales in restaurants and bars dropped 27.4 percent—from the same month in 2011. Year-over-year sales in May had jumped 26.6 percent, according to the revenue department.

Private liquor retailers were met with mixed responses in June. Raised prices and confusion from some stores not factoring sales tax into their liquor price tags caused anger among some customers.

Yet for the summer months of May, June and July 2012, liquor sales increased 10.7 percent from the same period in 2011. This past summer, consumers bought 10.6 million liters of spirits ($164.8 million) compared to 9.5 million liters ($138.9 million) one year earlier.

State officials said prices for spirits under privatization are higher than they were under the state-run system, although the average price paid for liquor was only up 16.2 percent in July compared to 17.2 percent in June.

Tax revenue was up 15 percent to $68 million during the three-month period in 2012, according to the revenue department.

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