Idaho could see sales of Five Wives vodka, a brand previously rejected by the Idaho State Liquor Division, if an appeals process is initiated.
The liquor was never picked up for sale on state liquor store shelves, after the ISLD decided that the vodka wouldn't do well here. They cited the product's average taste, already competitive price point and most controversially, the product's risque packaging.
Bearing a picture of five women lifting their skirts, the ISLD wrote to distributor Elite Spirits in Boise that the brand was offensive to a segment of Idaho's population. News immediately linked this to a perceived reference to polygamy from the Five Wives moniker.
But now Five Wives vodka could be sold in Idaho, if the parties can come to an agreement through an appeals process. ISLD Director Jeff Anderson has been in contact with John Challenger at Elite Spirits, and told the Ogden Standard-Examiner that he was willing to listen to arguments for stocking the booze.
The distillery also announced that proceeds from Idaho sales of its "Free the Fives Wives" T-shirts would benefit the July 7 Boise Music Festival, of which the company remains a sponsor.
Washington state retailers have begun stocking their shelves with bottles of booze, as businesses such as Costco, Safeway and Fred Meyer will sell liquor for the first time.
More than 1,600 retails stores had applied for the new spirits license, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, with the state approving more than 1,000. All 331 Washington state-run liquor stores went dark as of last night.
Some speculate that prices will jump today above the historic cost for bottles of bourbon, tequila and whiskey, and that Washington residents might look to border states for a cheaper price on booze.
Nowhere is that more apparent than the border city of Coeur d'Alene, where reports of sales across the border have increased up until today. As Washington state liquor stores ran dry in anticipation of the transition to private sales, the typically cheaper prices at Idaho's state-run liquor stores may have appealed to cross-border neighbors.
One man keeping an eye on those prices is Jeffrey Anderson, director at the Idaho State Liquor Division. He told Citydesk that he's pretty sure prices will rise across the border come Friday.
"The supermarkets are going to get the biggest sellers and stock those," said Anderson. "They're not going to have every variety on the shelves."
A brand of vodka distributed by Ogden's Own Distillery in Utah dubbed "Five Wives Vodka" has been banned from sale in the state of Idaho.
The Huffington Post and Associate Press report that the Idaho State Liquor Division took issue with the name, calling the moniker "offensive" to a segment of Idaho's population.
"We feel Five Wives Vodka concept is offensive to a prominent segment of our population and will not be carried," wrote deputy director Howard Wasserstein in a letter addressed to distributor Elite Spirits here in Boise.
The Huffington Post reported:
Steve Conlin, partner and vice president of marketing at Ogden's Own Distillery, the producer of Five Wives Vodka, found the Liquor Division decision to be "extremely misguided" if based on religious concern. “We can only presume he means Mormons," Conlin says in a press release emailed to The Huffington Post, “Though that makes little sense as they allow Polygamy Porter from Wasatch Beers of Utah to be sold. We’re a little dumbfounded by it all." According to the U.S. Census, 27 percent of Idaho's population are members of The Church of Latter-day Saints.
However, the liquor was approved for distribution in Utah, which has a large LDS population, as well as in neighboring Wyoming.
The distillery is now offering "Free the Five Wives" T-shirts for sale to push Idaho to reinstate the liquor.
As the State of Washington prepares for its transition from government-controlled to private liquor sales on Friday, June 1, a number of Washingtonians found it difficult to fill their liquor cabinets this weekend.
This morning's New York Times reports that a number of state liquor stores had been unable to place any new orders since mid-May and "some shelves were already bare" as customers stocked up "as insurance against shortages or price increases."
“We’re going dry,” said Stacey Hoefner, one state-run liquor store operator.
For three days this coming week, the system will be in transition with more than 300 of the state's 331 liquor stores going dark.
But the Times also reports that the shortage is temporary. Come midnight June 1, retailers, lincluding large grocery stores, will be allowed to stock their shelves with liquor.
After the transition, Idaho will be one of only seven states left with a state-run monopoly on retail liquor sales.
Costco, which helped bankroll a successful campaign to privatize liquor sales in Washington State, said late Friday that it had no interest in being an active participant in a similar initiative for Idaho or Oregon—at least for now. Costco reportedly shelled out $22 million in the Washington campaign to slide state-run liquor retail operations over to private interests.
"We're going to be cheering on the sidelines," said Joel Benoliel, Costco's legal officer, referring to a possible initiative in Idaho or Oregon. "But we're not going to be leading the parade."
The Northwest Grocery Association has indicated that it preferred to skip the ballot box and try to convince the Idaho Legislature to support privatization, possibly as early as 2013.
The Associated Press' John Miller reports today that a lobbyist with the Northwest Grocery Association has been meeting with Idaho officials about a possible ballot initiative that would allow liquor sales in grocery stores and large retailers like Costco.
Miller reports that NGA president Joe Gilliam met with Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa and their staffs on Dec. 20, to learn how to get the issue on a statewide ballot. To be eligible for this year's general election, NGA would need to secure 47,432 signatures from registered voters by April 30.
Last November, voters in Washington State opted to allow liquor sales by private retailers, rather than state-run liquor stores. The vote came in the wake of a $22.7 million campaign, supported by the NGA and funded in large part by the Costco retail chain. Beginning this June, liquor sales in Washington shift from state to grocery and warehouse stores.
The coalition against the initiative was financed mostly by wine and liquor distributors, who feared that Washington's deregulation would spread to other states.
About 20 Boise bar owners gathered at City Hall this afternoon to pepper Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's attorney with questions about proposed changes to the state's liquor quota system.
Last week, citydesk obtained a copy of Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's plan to eliminate Idaho's quota system on liquor-by-the-drink licenses.