Hard liquor sales hit record - Ohio says "bottoms up" as economy tanks

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By Jessica Brown jlbrown@enquirer.com   January 25, 2010

As the economy hit bottom last year, more and more Ohioans were saying '"bottoms
up" especially when it came to top shelf vodka, whisky and rum.


According to figures released Monday by the Ohio Department of Commerce's
Division of Liquor Control, sales of "spirituous liquor," or liquor containing
more than 21 percent alcohol by volume, reached an all time high last year of
$734.8 million. That's a $15.7 million - or 2.2 percent - jump from 2008 sales.

In Hamilton County, liquor stores sold 2 million bottles of the hard stuff last
year pushing retail sales to almost $30.6 million.

Butler County sold 878,441 bottles of the hard stuff, raking in $14.5 million.

Warren County stores sold 447,045 bottles, bringing in $7.6 million and Clermont
County stores sold 362,645 bottles, generating $5.8 million.

The state agency did not have similar figures on sales of beer, wine or other
low-proof alcoholic beverages.

So is hard liquor recession-proof?

Not necessarily. While retail sales at the local liquor stores were up,
wholesale sales to restaurants were down, said Matt Mullins, spokesman for the
department of liquor control.

Instead of buying a couple of pricey shots while out at a restaurant or the bar,
people may have been trying to cut costs by just buying the bottle of Jack
Daniels from the liquor store and drinking at home.

That's what Phill Adams, director of development for Jungle Jim's International
Market in Fairfield, thinks. He wasn't surprised at all by the department of
liquor control's numbers.

"Alcohol in general went up significantly," he said. But so did sales of other
groceries. "Our store sales in general are up because people have stopped going
to restaurants," he said. "They're cooking at home and they're watching more TV
and they start watching the Food Network and the only way they can make all
those recipes is to come in here and buy the ingredients."

Bottle by bottle, the sales also helped the state economy.

Money collected from the sales of spirituous liquor and its taxes generated $163
million for the state's general revenue fund last year.

Another $61.2 million was earmarked to enforce liquor laws like curbing sales to
minors, alcohol treatment and prevention programs, economic development and
Clean Ohio revitalization bonds which are used to clean up brownfields.


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