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April 03. 2012 11:26PM

Selling liquor: Remember Maine!

In Maine, public officials are all but in a panic over liquor sales. That is, they're terribly worried that their state is not selling enough of the stuff — because New Hampshire is.

The head of Maine's liquor bureau told state officials there on Monday that people who buy liquor in New Hampshire and bring it back to Maine cost the state between $4 million and $11 million a year. Those people include bar owners who buy at least some of their stock in New Hampshire because our liquor prices are significantly lower than Maine's. Many of those imports are illegal, as it is against Maine law to transport within that state more than four quarts of spirits not purchased at a state liquor store.

Liquor in New Hampshire costs between $2 and $7 a bottle less than the same product does in Maine, Gerry Reid, director of the Maine Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations, told legislators, according to Maine Today.

“Every single one is higher priced in Maine. There are no exceptions,” the publication quoted him as saying.

That speaks well of New Hampshire's Liquor Commission, which runs a tight ship and has improved its marketing and operations in the past few years.

Maine legislators, hurting for money, are (finally) eager to improve their system to better compete with New Hampshire. That ought to give pause to legislators here who would tinker too vigorously with the way the state handles its liquor sales. We should always look for ways to improve the system to make it more profitable for the state and reasonably more convenient for consumers. But we should take care that changes don't give the competition any advantage to exploit.


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