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Fight brewing over Idaho liquor license reform

The proposal in the legislature would allow cities and counties to issue liquor licenses. (CBS 2 file)

Brad Selvig, owner of the End Zone Sports Bar on Broadway Avenue in Boise, showed us his Idaho liquor license which he got almost 20 years ago.

It cost about $180,000.

"When all was said and done, that's about the price I paid for it," Selvig said. And he says he has no regrets, considering it an investment in his business.

Selvig is also secretary and treasurer of the Idaho Licensed Beverage Association, which plans to fight the latest proposal in the statehouse to overhaul the liquor license system.

Selvig says the proposal, which would allow cities and counties to issue licenses, would flood the market with liquor licenses and bring down their value.

"If you're given a liquor license for $3,000 what's the harm if you lose it?" Selvig said. "I pay $185,000 for my liquor license, I'm going to make sure I do everything I can to hold on to it."

Sen. Jim Rice of Caldwell is sponsoring the liquor license reform bill. he says the current quota system is flawed because it's based on population, allowing one license for every 1,500 people.

Rice says that creates bidding wars and long waiting lists.

"Nobody has a right to a state-created monopoly," Rice said. "What we have is a system that is a significant impediment to economic growth, especially restaurants and hotels coming into various parts of the state including the Treasure Valley."

But Selvig says not all cities and counties in the state are equipped to handle the added responsibility and his group favors creating an interim committee to work out a better plan.

Rice's proposal is in the Senate State Affairs Committee with a hearing scheduled for Monday morning.

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