State changes split-case liquor fee


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Some local alcohol-related business owners said they’re annoyed with a recent hike in a fee on purchases of split cases of liquor.

The fee for buying a split case — when stores purchase less than a full case of an item — increased this month for the first time since 1986.

The move will likely affect smaller businesses more than large chains.

Instead of a fee of 20 cents per bottle, the state will now charge alcohol distributors and businesses 50 cents, a 150 percent increase.

While local businesses likely won’t pass along the increased charge to consumers, employees said it could alter their ordering methods.

“We’re going to try to order as many full cases as possible,” said Jeremy Harrod, the manager of Liquor House, 425 S. Gilbert St., standing next to a shelf of Jack Daniel’s. “We just kind of ordered full and tried to plan ahead.”

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Harrod said Liquor House used to order around 70 split cases per week, though last week, it didn’t order any. The fee increase will just force more organization.

“It’s kind of a pain from that standpoint, but we shouldn’t have to raise prices,” Harrod said. “We’re just planning on budgeting a little better.”

Harrod said he was notified of the fee increase in a letter from the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

Rick Swizdor, the chief deputy administrator of the agency, acknowledged some stores felt they didn’t have enough time to make adjustments. The agency sent out letters to business owners in mid-December, and it has received a couple of complaints.

“A lot of people wish they would have gotten more notice,” he said, and the agency takes responsibility for the mistake.

The state’s financial climate had an influence on the change, he noted.

“We’ve been ‘deficiting,’ ” Swizdor said. “Offering split cases was ‘deficiting’ state profits.”

He said the increase will have an effect on inventory and convenience of liquor sales. For the past couple of years, the state has lost an average of roughly $550,000 per year on split cases of liquor.

“I think it’s fine,” said Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St. “I think they should have been doing it throughout the years, and they just haven’t.”

Cohen said she does not think her profits will be affected by the split-case fee, but as a business owner, she does not like to see prices increase.

“Liquor has not gone up consistently in price like beer has,” she said, and she only heard about the fee increase through the media. “I certainly could say, ‘Oh we don’t like to see anything go up in price,’ but I don’t really have a concern. I think alcohol has been pretty low in price.”

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