As OLCC Faces Privatization Push, Oregon Liquor Stores Sales Set New Record Last Year

Revenue at state-licensed booze stores has soared during the pandemic.

Uptown Liquor. (Justin Yau)

At its monthly meeting Jan. 20, the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission presented strong results for calendar year 2021.

Liquor sales at state-licensed stores set a new high of $813 million in 2021. That’s up 18.5% from the last pre-pandemic year of 2019 and 6.3% higher than 2020.

Cannabis sales continue to be extremely strong as well, the commission reported—but nobody is trying to supplant the OLCC’s role in the weed industry.

That’s not the case with liquor, where the Northwest Grocery Association is working toward putting a measure on the November ballot that would wrest liquor sales away from state stores and allow its members—Fred Meyer, Albertson’s and others—to sell liquor as grocery stores do in Washington and other states.

The OLCC is the third-largest source of revenue to the state after personal and corporate income taxes and the Oregon Lottery. In total, it distributes 36% of revenue to state and local governments and will want to make sure its government partners remember that as the grocery association measure moves forward.

“I’m amazed at how much we do every day and how much of the economy and business activity we affect,” OLCC executive director Steve Marks said in a statement. “That revenue produces public programs for Oregon and all the jobs and private businesses that we enable while ensuring it’s all done safely.”

The Northwest Grocery Association and opponents of privatization, including the Oregon Beer & Wine Distributors Assocation, are currently awaiting a ruling from the Oregon Supreme Court on a ballot title.

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