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Ohioans spend $754M on liquor in 2010

More than 16 Olympic-sized swimming pools could be filled with the amount of spirituous liquor bought in Ohio last year.

In 2010, Ohioans spent nearly $754 million on liquor alone.

The state’s spirituous liquor sales exceeded 2009 revenues by $19 million, or 2.6 percent, according to a Jan. 18 Ohio Department of Commerce press release.

Consumers statewide purchased 11 million gallons of spirituous liquor last year, the release said.

Spirituous liquor is intoxicating liquor and contains more than 21 percent alcohol by volume, said Matt Mullins, ODC Division of Liquor Control spokesman.

Alcohol revenues from products like beer or wine, with less than 21 percent volume, are not included in ODC’s reported figures.

Top liquor sellers in the state were Kamchatka Vodka, with about 408,000 gallons sold and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, with about 343,000 gallons sold.

Other brands that made the top 10 list include Bacardi Superior Light Rum, Smirnoff Vodka and Captain Morgan Spiced Rum.

Ohioans have bought more liquor year after year for more than a decade, but Mullins said ODC doesn’t investigate why.

“We have no information on the causes, but consumption was up,” Mullins said.

Sri Narayan, a fourth-year in business and economics, said he thought the spike in liquor sales might have had something to do with a struggling Ohio economy.

“Times are rough and unemployment in Ohio is still pretty high,” Narayan said. “Maybe people just turned to the bottle when times were bad.”

Under a post-Prohibition 1933 law, the Ohio Division of Liquor Control is in charge of distributing hard liquor in the state. The agency collects the state’s liquor tax and supervises more than 450 private alcohol vendors.

As reports came in about record liquor sales in January, another report came in urging Ohio to consider privatizing liquor distribution.

On Jan. 14, The Columbus Dispatch reported Gov. John Kasich received an unsolicited research study from Western Reserve Partners, an investment-banking firm based in Cleveland. The study said that by selling the state’s liquor-distribution system to a private operator, Ohio would quickly generate between $1 billion and $1.5 billion.

If Ohio moved to a privatized system, the state would lose more than $200 million in annual profits from liquor sales from the money that was quickly generated.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols told The Lantern that privatizing liquor sales is not on the governor’s agenda.

“Nothing’s happened with this,” Nichols said. “It’s something that (Kasich) has mentioned. This was a report put together, not at our request. We get dozens of ideas like this sent to us every week.”

Money generated from the sale of spirituous liquor and the associated tax revenues help pay for programs offered by state agencies, such as Clean Ohio revitalization bonds, liquor law enforcement and alcohol treatment programs.

Brittney Rowland, a third-year in strategic communication, said she’s never bought Kamchatka, but was not surprised it took the No. 1 spot.

“I’ve never bought Kamchatka personally, but I think most of the bars use it for well drinks,” Rowland said. “So I’m sure it sells a lot.”

Some local liquor stores saw an increase in business in 2010.

Steven Grabner, owner of Europia Wine and Spirits in the Short North, said the store saw a 9 percent increase in liquor sales from 2009 to 2010.

“It was a busier year for us,” Grabner said. “I think increased tourism had something to do with it in our case.”


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