Iowans bought another record amount of alcohol

By Dar Danielson, Radio Iowa
State liquor sales for the fiscal year that ended in July broke the record set the previous year.

Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division spokesman, Jake Holmes, says alcohol sales hit nearly $416 million.

“That amounts to a 13.2% increase over fiscal year ’20. For comparison, FY ’20 saw about an eight percent increase over FY ’19. Typically we’ve seen about four or five percent year-over-year. But eight percent and 13 percent are very large increases,” Holmes says.

The last fiscal year was the first time sales topped the $400 million mark. The pandemic was credited for the increase in the 2020 fiscal year, its impact is likely behind the continued booze buying in the last fiscal year.

“It’s hard to say for certain — but a safe assumption would be that there’s some sort of correlation with the pandemic — because that’s really when we started to see these big increases, obviously,” he says. “If you were to ask me would our sales have jumped like this if there wasn’t a pandemic — I couldn’t confidently say that was true.”

He says sales saw a shift during the height of the pandemic, but things seemed to have returned to a balance. Holmes says the off-premise establishments did see quite an increase in sales for take-home liquor when restaurants and other establishments got shut down — but he says the sales for bars and restaurants did come back after the shutdowns.

One type of seller has continued to see increases in licenses in the last fiscal year.
“The Class E licensees — so think those places where you can buy liquor to go, so grocery stores, gas stations liquor stores, things like that — that’s been trending up over the years and it’s at the highest it’s ever been at this point. A lot of the on-premise licenses — it was difficult during the pandemic, we had some close and then some reopen,” Holmes says.

The pandemic led to supply chain issues for a lot of businesses. Holmes says ABD was not immune to them — but was able to manage. “Because ABD is the sole wholesaler of liquor in Iowa, and with the relationships that we have with those suppliers — we so far have been able to manage those shortages relatively effectively.– and ensure that those products are still being delivered efficiently,” according to Holmes.

He says they have always kept a good supply of the most popular items — and the shortages came in those brands that were not among the top sellers.