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Senate Bill 1250 — Liquor licenses, waterfront resorts

Senate Bill 1250 — Liquor licenses, waterfront resorts

Parrish Miller
January 29, 2024

Bill Description: Senate Bill 1250 would add another carve-out to Idaho's broken liquor licensing system.

Rating: 0

NOTE: Senate Bill 1250 is similar to Senate Bill 1141, introduced during the 2023 session. Both Senate Bill 1250 and Senate Bill 1141 share some similarities with the negatively rated Senate bills 1046 and 1047 from 2023, which provided very narrow carve-outs for the benefit of one, or at most, a few businesses. Compared to those bills, Senate Bill 1250 could benefit a number of existing and potential businesses. This is why there is a difference in the rating, although all the bills highlight the same ongoing problems with the state’s liquor licensing system, which the Legislature refuses to remedy.

Does it increase barriers to entry into the market? Examples include occupational licensure, the minimum wage, and restrictions on home businesses. Conversely, does it remove barriers to entry into the market?

Idaho's liquor licensing laws are illogical and discriminatory, creating a significant impediment to market entry and unnecessarily limiting access to both providers and consumers. The current quota-based licensing system should be abolished and replaced with a simple, straightforward, and unlimited licensing system that is low-cost, free of population-based and geographical restrictions, and open to all applicants.

Rather than fix this broken system that creates artificial and economically harmful scarcity, the Legislature has passed numerous carve-outs, exempting various types of businesses. The businesses are not called out by name in Idaho statute, but they are described in enough detail to limit the carve-out to a small number of businesses, or sometimes even just one.

Senate Bill 1250 would amend Section 23-948, Idaho Code, which is an existing carve-out in the state liquor licensing laws for "the owner, operator or lessee of a waterfront resort." This language would be altered to read "the owner, operator or a lessee located at a waterfront resort." 

To qualify for this carve-out, the waterfront resort must include (among other things) "not less than two hundred (200) feet of lake frontage upon a lake or reservoir as defined by the army corps of engineers of not less than one hundred sixty (160) acres, or river frontage upon a river with at least an average six (6) months' flow of eleven thousand (11,000) cubic feet per second."

There is no logical reason why a river's rate of flow should be factored into the availability of liquor licenses, but Senate Bill 1250 doubles down on this dubious logic.

The bill says that a waterfront resort will also qualify for the carve-out if it includes "river frontage upon a river with at least … an average four (4) months' flow of one thousand five hundred (1,500) cubic feet per second if the river is directly impacted by a seasonal irrigation diversion via irrigation canal as specifically listed in the United States bureau of reclamation hydromet-reservoir storage 'teacup' diagrams for the Columbia-Pacific Northwest region."

According to the statement of purpose for the bill, this expanded carve-out will "encourage economic development along the Boise River."

This may be true, but adding an additional carve-out to a broken system only perpetuates the system. Only by eliminating the quota system — and not simply stacking up more carve-outs — can Idaho move away from government created chaos to the natural order of the free market. 


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