Ohioans love their booze.
Liquor sales climbed 7 percent last year to $849 million, eclipsing the state record set the previous year, the Ohio Division of Liquor Control reported Wednesday.
It was at least the 12th consecutive year sales rose, agency spokesman Matt Mullins said.
The agency attributed the growth to Ohioans buying more premium products, the way the state manages its inventory, price increases and a slight jump in consumption.
The state sold 11.9 million gallons of liquor through its 464 contract stores — a 4.2 percent increase over the previous year.
The agency also reported wholesale sales to restaurants, bars and clubs grew for the second consecutive year, climbing 5.7 percent to $257.8 million. Those sales had slumped in some previous years.
State leaders interpreted the wholesale increase as a good sign for the economy because it shows people are going out again.
But Jarrod Clabaugh, a spokesman for the Ohio Restaurant Association in Columbus, said members weren’t reporting big growth, especially at the end of last year, and they “are not celebrating yet.”
He attributed the increase to expanded happy hours, more specials and sales of flavored liquors.
Lenny Jaikissoon, co-owner of Silver Spirits in Akron, said he hasn’t seen wholesale growth. His store sells both retail and wholesale.
Many retail customers are purchasing higher-end liquors and specialty liquors, such as flavored vodkas, helping boost dollar sales, he said.
He pointed out a 25-year-old bottle of Macallan single-malt Scotch whisky that sells for $790. It’s locked up in a special glass display with several other pricey options.
“We are known for our single-malt Scotches,” Jaikissoon said.
The top-seller at Silver Spirits is either Jack Daniels or Jameson whiskeys, he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.