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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES --- How does one pass the time during a pandemic? If you’re in Iowa, the answer in part appears to be to have a drink or two. Or three.
Iowans have set a new record for liquor sales for the second consecutive fiscal year, with the latest total surpassing $400 million for the first time and increasing by an “unprecedented” 13.2 percent over the previous record, according to the annual report published Tuesday from the state agency that regulates alcohol beverage sales in Iowa.
There was $415.8 million in liquor sales in the state during the fiscal year that spanned July 2020 through June 2021. That was even higher than the previous record of $367.3 million, hit during the previous 12 months.
Sales in the current fiscal year, which started in July, are up another 5.7 percent so far, said Stephen Larson, who heads the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.
The state agency also stepped up its regulation game during the pandemic to enforce statewide public health orders, performing 3,229 compliance inspections during the most recent fiscal year. That was up from just 271 inspections the previous 12 months.
Of those inspections, 2,877 were part of the agency’s enforcement of state public health orders. Those inspections resulted in 37 violations, according to the report.
For various portions of 2020, bars and other eating and drinking establishments were required to reduce hours, limit the number of customers, keep individuals and groups spaced apart and conduct increased hygiene measures.
“Although COVID-19 has created additional challenges in the marketplace, this report reflects (the agency’s) continued success in achieving the mission of serving Iowans through responsible and efficient licensing, regulation, and distribution of alcohol,” Jake Holmes, an executive officer with the state agency, said in a statement.
Income from liquor profits, beer barrel and wine taxes, and revenue from licensing and regulatory efforts by the state agency translated into a total transfer of $168 million to the state’s general fund budget, and $29 million to the Iowa Department of Public Health for the administration of substance abuse and prevention education programs, according to the report.
Once again, Black Velvet held the top spot as the most popular liquor brand purchased by Iowans, holding onto a position the Canadian whisky has held since at least fiscal 2012 when the state began reporting the top brands.
Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum round out the top three most popular spirits with Iowans, as was the case in the previous fiscal year.
Blue Ox Vodka was the most popular Iowa brand for the third year in a row.
The state’s report can be seen at abd.iowa.gov/annual-reports.
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