The head of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division (ABD) expects to continue education efforts among retailers and predicts profits will level off in his second four-year term. ADB administrator, Stephen Larson, was recently reconfirmed for a second term. He says he wants to continue revamping and realigning the agency’s role in educating the people who sell alcohol in the state to help them comply with the law.
“We basically reactivated the compliance program, but the compliance program, we’ve just started to scratch the surface. So, over the next two or three years we are going to be more engaged with businesses to regulate and assist them in educating their employees on how they can sell alcohol to consumers across the state,” Larson says.
ABD has instituted on-line training and Larson says they will continue to expand those opportunities. “We are going to move toward developing interactive programs through the web that licensees can go to get answers, to get information when they have questions,” Larson explains. He says they plan on holding forums, educational regional meetings, and plan to take time to go out and meet with license holders.
Products produced in the state have become more available through wineries and breweries and Larson says that’s led to a lot of questions about how those alcoholic products are sold. He says for example, a number of communities have festivals where they might have a 5-K run and include wineries and microdistilleries selling their product or offering samples.
Larson says IABD will be working with those communities to ensure they are following the proper regulations while allowing the industries to grow. Iowa law now allows convenience stores to sell hard liquor and Larson says that has not been a major issue. “Local officials have done a good job in determining what they feel would the appropriate number of alcohol outlets,” Larson says. “And you are getting into an alcohol-density issue, and that’s something that can be an emerging issue in the future. And local governments they’re poised to deal with that, and we work with them as a partner, because ultimately they would need to pass ordinances.”
The ABD has seen nearly a decade of sales growth, but Larson believes things are starting to level off. “We’re going to have marginal growth now, what that means in fiscal year 14 we are expecting about a 2.3-percent increase in liquor profits — where over the last seven years it’s averaged over 5, 5-and-a-half percent. So, we are expecting to have marginal growth moving forward,” Larson says.
He doesn’t expect the steady trend to change for awhile. “I do not expect that over the next three years we are going to see a five to six percent growth in liquor profits,” Larson says. The state saw a record $119.5 million in revenue in the last fiscal year.