Drinking across state lines 

Recent changes to the Montana Liquor Quarterly, the publication containing the list of wholesale liquor prices used by bars throughout Montana and administered by the state Department of Revenue, has stirred a wind of disapproval among local liquor establishments.

The changes to the quarterly are due to an act of outsourcing on behalf of the Montana Department of Revenue, which last November inked a contract with Alabama-based publisher American Wine & Liquor to print the publication after bids from Montana-owned companies—like previous publisher and distributor Continental Communications—were rejected.

Montana, being one of 19 “control jurisdictions” nationwide, controls the sale of liquor sold to bars through government agencies at the wholesale level, establishing prices and operating distribution in Montana.

Moving the printing of the price list beyond state borders, at the behest of the state, has ruffled a few feathers. “It’s just ridiculous,” says one local bar manager who did not want to be identified by name for fear of repercussions. “It’s sending taxpayer money out of state for jobs that can be done in-state, and then they cry because there are no jobs here.”

Cole Boehler, owner of Continental Communications, said previous price lists carried advertisements that brought ad revenue to Montana from liquor distributorships in New York and Chicago, and now that money is going down south.

“We had a Montana company producing this book; we had Montana workers producing this book; we had Montana workers doing the binding, inserting and mailing,” Boehler says. “We used to bring $32,000 into the state a year. Now, it’s all gone.”

The changes to the price book also include advertisements for businesses and bartending schools in other states, of no particular use for Montanans or Montana businesses.

Unlike the old price list—printed mostly in black and white and easy to read—the new ones are printed on glossy paper and are blatantly colorful.

According to one bar manager: “I can hardly read the darn thing.”

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