State Liquor Store

Weekly N.H. News Roundup: April 6, 2018

Apr 6, 2018

It's feeling a lot like primary season in New Hampshire, with two past, and possibly future, Presidential hopefuls making the rounds in the state.  The Internal Revenue Service also visits New Hampshire, examining state liquor sales.  And despite several high-profile animal abuse reports in the state, a bill to tighten breeding regulations gets pushback.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Agents from the Internal Revenue Service made unannounced visits to New Hampshire liquor stores last week, according to multiple sources. The action comes in the wake of allegations made by an elected official that the state-run stores aren’t doing enough to stop potentially illegal all-cash transactions, exposing the state and liquor store employees to possible lawsuits and harm.

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr/Creative Commons

It may not be every New Hampshire reveler’s go-to drink order, but Hennessy cognac was the top selling spirit by volume at state-run liquor stores in 2017, accounting for nearly 5 percent of total sales that year.

 

Hennessy also happens to be the liquor at the center of bootlegging allegations made last month by Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, who is calling for an investigation into how the New Hampshire Liquor Commission handles large all-cash sales made by out-of-state residents.

Courtesy of NH Liquor Commission

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission has fired a retail employee who it says violated policies by improperly completing a large all-cash sale at a state liquor store last month.

That transaction, involving $24,000 worth of Hennessy cognac, is at the heart of allegations being made Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky into wrongdoing by the Liquor Commission.

Lauren Chooljian/NHPR

Large all-cash transactions. Out-of-state customers going store to store to buy enormous quantities of Hennessy cognac. Employees unsure about how to handle potentially illegal liquor sales.

NHPR File Photo

The Chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party Monday criticized an Executive Councilor for conducting his own "misguided sting" investigation into potential money laundering at state liquor stores.

After receiving allegations about potential money laundering taking place at state-run New Hampshire liquor stores, Gov. Chris Sununu says the source of the allegations--an elected official--may have acted improperly in gathering information.

Andru Volinsky, Letter to Governor and Attorney General

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky is calling for an investigation into the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, alleging that the state’s liquor stores are engaging in business practices that could “unquestionably facilitate money laundering related to criminal activities.”

The state liquor store near the Portsmouth traffic circle is set to receive a major upgrade.

The new building will be double the size of the existing liquor store and will offer some 6,000 different sizes and varieties of wines and spirits.

Joseph Mollica is Chairman of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission. He says replacing the old building is expected to generate a 10 percent increase in sales.

“The selection just isn’t there and we’re missing the boat. It’s time to step it up and get that store done.”

The N.H. Senate has voted to undo a policy that would penalize the state liquor commission for not hitting financial targets. Senators fear enforcing budgets cuts at liquor will hurt overall state revenues. 

Under a provision tucked into the current state budget, the liquor commission is supposed to trim spending to offset any shortfall in revenue, up to five percent of its budget. Liquor was expected to generate $144 million dollars by July, but is now likely to fall millions of dollars short.

Courtesy of NHLC

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission says sales of locally produced wines and spirits reached a record high of $1.35 million. Sales grew by 32.5% over the past fiscal year.

Liquor Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica attributes this growth to prominent product placement in the state’s liquor stores.

“We’re very supportive of them and we appreciate their hard work and dedication to their craft. And we’re happy to promote their products as New Hampshire citizens.”

The Liquor Commission also provides local producers with free warehouse storage.

Courtesy NHLC

  The New Hampshire Liquor Commission reports liquor sales reached a record six hundred twenty six million dollars in the past fiscal year.

Joseph Mollica, the Chairman of the liquor commission, credits the 4% increase in sales to customer service training and innovative marketing campaigns.

“What this current commission is doing is utilizing the ability of current marketing, social media and proper advertising and these renovations of these stores. And I think what we will see is the liquor commission become more and more profitable as time goes on.”

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr/Creative Commons

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office says an investigation has found that no wine was ever missing from a Portsmouth state liquor outlet.

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr/Creative Commons

New Hampshire is one of just eighteen states where the government controls the sale of alcohol; an arrangement from the Prohibition era.  Now, several of these states are re-assessing this set-up, wondering whether it’s outdated.  But others have argued for sticking with the control system, saying it’s better for public safety and for state finances.