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By JOHN SKIPPER john.skipper@globegazette.com
MASON CITY | North Iowa consumers have apparently done their part to contribute to the state's booming sales of liquor, wine and beer.

While Iowa sales hit a record high of $256 million in the last fiscal year, area liquor stores have experienced an uptick as well.

Examples are HyVee West in Mason City and Lake Liquors Wine and Spirits in Clear Lake.

"We're up, we're definitely up," said Bruce Long, wine and spirits manager at HyVee West. "The biggest increase is in retail rather than wholesale because we do both," he said.

Pattie McLaughlin, who, along with her husband, Mark, owns Lake Liquor, said her business is also up.

"Business is always good, but as the economy gets better, our sales get better," she said. "When the economy turns people start buying from the top shelf instead of the bottom shelf."

Both Long and McLaughlin said their sales are seasonal, but each had a different perspective on it.

"Premium beers are big in the summer," said Long. "Imports are winter beers.

"Wine is biggest between September and April. In fact, the largest wine holiday is Thanksgiving. Easter is the second biggest holiday for wine," he said. "Each spirit seems to have its own season."

McLaughlin said being located in Clear Lake presents a special circumstance.

"Our sales are seasonal, but you have to remember we're a resort town here," she said. "So the Fourth of July is always our biggest time and Buddy Holly weekend is big, too. Then there's always New Year's Eve.

"Our motto is: Every day is an occasion," McLaughlin said.

State sales through the 12-month fiscal year that ended June 30 were up $21 million or 5.6 percent higher than the previous year and marked the highest level since the state became the exclusive wholesaler of spirits in Iowa in 1988, according to the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division.

Iowans bought 4.95 million gallons of spirits, up 1.9 percent from the previous year; 4.42 million gallons of wine, a 6.1 percent increase, and 73.1 million gallons of beer, which represented a 5.8 percent decline from fiscal 2012.

“Iowa is right on par with national trends, which are indicating that beer consumption is down while wine and spirits consumption is up,” said division spokeswoman Tonya Dusold.

“Beer has been trending down for a number of years as people migrate over to wine and spirits. Also, home brewing has been picking up and that may be having an impact on beer taxes collected for people brewing at home rather than purchasing from a retailer,” she added.

Fiscal 2013 also marked a record-breaking year for funds generated for the state at $119.5 million from the sale of spirits, as well as increased revenue generated by excise taxes, license fees and civil penalties, said ABD Administrator Stephen Larson.

The majority of the state proceeds were transferred to the general fund to be appropriated by the Iowa Legislature for a variety of state programs.