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Oregon high-proof, low-cost spirits to rise in price; Bend distiller sees little impact

(Update: Adding video, comments)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Liquor Control Commission approved a "floor pricing" plan for distilled spirits that will increase the price of the lowest-priced spirits sold in Oregon liquor stores.

The move, approved late last week, stems from public health concerns around alcohol addiction.

OLCC spokesman Bryant Haley said Monday the proposal balances business interests with public health concerns.

“So something we really have to consider is being a regulator of, what can we control around alcohol consumption and pricing? And this is one of the levers we have, was to control the lowest-priced spirits,” Haley said.

If a bottle contains a high percentage of alcohol and the price it is selling for is low, then that bottle is likely to be affected by this proposal.

According to Haley, about 144 different alcohol products will be affected.

Hospitality industry and business groups affiliated with alcohol licensees said the floor pricing also jeopardizes the hospitality industry’s fragile recovery from the pandemic.

Haley noted that state alcohol regulations were loosened during the pandemic to provide help for the hospitality industry -- but that also gave Oregonians easier access to liquor.

Brad Irwin, the owner of Oregon Spirit Distillers in Bend and president of Oregon’s Distillery Guild, said Monday he isn’t worried about this price increase, since it affects a grade of alcohol that he doesn’t produce.

“It's really far from our price point," Irwin said. "You’ll find our prices to be in a little bit of a more premium category.”

Haley says that although some prices are going to rise, the increases aren't very large.

“If you look at a bottle, it is going to go up $1 or so, maybe 50 to 95 cents," he said. "But then licensees who order through our store get a discount, so if something was $8.95 a bottle or so, they’d pay approximately $8.50. That still drives it down, so I think that’s something to be in consideration."

Kate Fitzpatrick, an employee of 3rd Street Beverage in Bend, says the business sells a variety of liquor that might go up in price, but that it won’t stop people from purchasing alcohol.

“I think maybe in the beginning, people will comment a little, but they still manage to open their wallet and spend,” Fitzpatrick said.

The price increases on high-proof, low price liquor goes into effect on July 1.

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Leslie Cano

Leslie Cano is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Leslie here.


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