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$500,000 for a beer?: Critics fight state's 'ridiculous' liquor license system

February 5, 2017View for printing

In light of the well-documented growth in the Gallatin Valley, Montana's population-based alcohol license quota system has become a hot topic among local proprietors.

Passed in the 1930s after the repeal of Prohibition, the quota laws were put in place to control the sale and distribution of alcohol across the state. The number of available licenses, which include one for beer and wine restaurant sales as well as the coveted all-alcoholic beverages sales license, are based on yearly U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Over the last five years, more than 40 licenses have been bought and sold in Gallatin County. The average price was $320,000 -- with a high of $800,000 for a single all-beverage license. Prior to the recession, licenses in Bozeman and Missoula sold for $1 million.

By Lewis Kendall Chronicle Staff Writer

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Montana's crazy quota system for alcohol licenses

Enough about craziness on the national level. Let's talk Montana crazy: the quota system for alcohol licenses. In some towns, it's six figures for a license to sell beer and wine! Forget about more local restaurants. Maybe even about Red Lobster.

Montana law limits the number of licenses, issues them for almost nothing, then lets owners trade them for big bucks on the private market. That protects public health and safety?

by Paul Cartwright - Former Helena city commissioner.

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