Liquor sales ‘on fire’ as recession eases

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

Liquor sales in Elk River have been “on fire”  in recent years as the economy has improved.

Sales at Elk River’s two city-owned liquor stores were up 6 percent from 2011 to 2012 and increased 4.5 percent in the first eight months of 2013, according to Dave Potvin, who manages the liquor operation.

“I don’t anticipate that we can continue doing those kinds of increases because a lot of that was a function of the economy coming out of the recession,” Potvin told the Elk River City Council during a recent budget work session. “We’ve been really on fire the last couple of years.”

Northbound Liquor, located along Highway 169 in Elk River, is one of two city-owned liquor stores in Elk River. Star News file photo

Northbound Liquor, located along Highway 169 in Elk River, is one of two city-owned liquor stores in Elk River. Star News file photo

Sales are projected to increase 3 percent in 2014.

The city of Elk River owns Northbound and Westbound liquor stores.

Sales at Northbound totaled $4.44 million in 2012, up from $4.15 million a year earlier. 2014 sales are projected to reach $4.55 million.

At Westbound, sales hit $2.08 million in 2012, up from $1.99 million in 2011. Sales in 2014 are projected at $2.15 million.

Profits from the liquor operation help fund a variety of city projects, including a $260,000 destination playground that opened at Orono Park in June. The liquor operation also contributed $2.75 million in profits to a $9.5 million public works facility expansion project completed earlier this year.

“We certainly appreciate your hard work,” Mayor John Dietz told Potvin and Assistant Operations Manager Steve Tillmann during the work session. “You guys help finance a lot of things in the city.”

Potvin, meanwhile, has laid out four goals for the municipal liquor operation in 2014. They are:

•Increase fund transfers now that Westbound debt is paid.

•Promote value of the liquor operation to the community.

•Pass all compliance checks.

•Plan for future of the operation with consideration of retirements.

About Elk River’s liquor operation

•The city of Elk River has been in the liquor business for years with Northbound Liquor. The city built a second municipal liquor store — Westbound — in 2005.

•Beer accounts for the largest percent of sales at the two stores, followed by liquor and then wine.

•The average sale per customer in 2012 was $23.97.

•Elk River’s city-owned liquor store operation ranked No. 8 out of 208 in the state in 2011 gross sales. It showed a net profit of $824,165 that year.

•Cities were originally authorized to own and operate liquor establishments as a means of controlling the sale of alcohol.

Sources: City of Elk River, Minnesota State Auditor’s Office

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