By Michael Deeds, IdahoStatesman.com
The coronavirus pandemic is enough to drive a person to drink.
Although most restaurants in the Boise area have reopened after forced closures, some bars remain shuttered by order of Central District Health. Others have applied for food establishment licenses, created limited menus and returned to pouring drinks.
It’s an awful era for the service industry. Yet some bars and restaurants are still slinging a surprising number of cocktails.
Each year, it’s fun to examine the annual sales report from the Idaho State Liquor Division. It tells us how much money bars and restaurants spent purchasing booze. (Remember, we’re talking the hard stuff, not beer and wine, which the liquor division doesn’t handle.)
It’s not a perfect science. But it’s usually an indicator of how much liquor these places are selling — in other words, how busy they are.
Yes, the virus made everything different. But some things never change.
Barbacoa Grill, 276 W. Bobwhite Court, trounced all Boise competitors in fiscal year 2020, which ended June 30. Barbacoa spent $330,570 on 15,896 bottles. Although the numbers are down, Barbacoa has been the Treasure Valley’s No. 1 liquor purchaser for years.
ALCOHOL DURING COVID
Want a cure for the coronavirus? How about a two-for-one happy hour?
What’s interesting is that Barbacoa’s liquor buying barely dipped midsummer — even during a pandemic. Barbacoa spent $40,803 on 2,067 bottles in July. It spent $42,270 on 2,123 bottles in July 2019.
Pandemic or not, Boiseans want their Barbacoa. Make it a double.
With fewer choices, does it stand to reason that places that are still open might be stampeded by a thirsty, mask-wearing throng? (Or non-mask-wearing, of course, in Canyon County?)
Possibly. Whatever the case, here’s what’s happening — at this moment. These are the top 10 Treasure Valley bars and restaurants in August, ranked by bottles purchased and then dollars spent. (Note: Adjacent businesses shared by the same owner receive a combined number from the Liquor Division.)
AUGUST BOTTLES PURCHASED
1. Barbacoa, Boise (2,142 bottles); 2. Bardenay, Boise (1,532 bottles); 3. The Riverside Hotel, Garden City (1,156 bottles); 4. Bittercreek Alehouse/Diablo & Sons, Boise (850 bottles); 5. Casa Del Matador, Meridian (778 bottles); 6. Mulligans/Olympic (772 bottles); 7. Reef/The Brickyard/The Front Door (754 bottles); 8. Liquid Lounge/Solid Grill & Bar (736 bottles); 9. Homestead Bar & Grill, Meridian (708 bottles); 10. Crave Kitchen & Bar, Eagle (673 bottles); 11. Twin Peaks, Boise (646 bottles); 12. The Mode Lounge, Boise (636 bottles); 13. The Matador, Boise (586 bottles); 14. The Frontier/Roosevelt, Meridian (579 bottles); 15. Yard House, Meridian (564 bottles); 16. The Getaway, Nampa (558 bottles); 17. Charlie Brown’s Lounge, Boise (542 bottles); 18. Rudy’s Pub & Grill, 2310 E. Overland Road, Meridian (534 bottles); 19. Rudy’s Pub & Grill, 3035 W. McMillan Road, Meridian (500 bottles); 20. Sam’s Smokehouse and Saloon, Boise (495 bottles).
AUGUST DOLLARS SPENT
1. Barbacoa, Boise ($42,511); 2. The Riverside Hotel, Garden City ($21,700); 3. Bittercreek Alehouse/Diablo & Sons, Boise ($18,190); 4. The Mode Lounge, Boise ($18,139); 5. Crave Kitchen & Bar, Eagle ($17,137); 6. Chandlers Steakhouse, Boise ($17,100); 7. Casa Del Matador, Meridian ($15,114); 8. Homestead Bar & Grill, Meridian ($14,746); 9. Bardenay, Boise ($14,385); 10. Twin Peaks, Boise ($14,238); 11. The Matador, Boise ($13,858); 12. Reef/The Brickyard/The Front Door ($12,438); 13. Liquid Lounge/Solid Grill & Bar ($11,945); 14. Fork ($11,739); 15. Mulligan’s/Olympic ($11,098); 16. The Getaway, Nampa ($11,095); 17. Yard House, Meridian ($10,625); 18. The Frontier/Roosevelt, Meridian ($10,567); 19. The Curb Bar & Grill, Meridian ($10,499), 20. Charlie Brown’s Lounge, Boise ($10,297).
CHEERS TO THE FUTURE
Bear in mind, this is a one-month sample. But there are some unlikely players among the top 10. That’s not where you normally find downtown Boise’s Mode Lounge or Meridian’s family-friendly Homestead Bar & Grill — or a Twin Peaks “breastaurant,” for that matter.
Major downtown Boise players, such as dance club StrangeLove (and its downstairs cousin, Dirty Little Roddy’s), are absent. They remain closed.
There’s also a notable newcomer crushing some alcohol: Crave Kitchen & Bar, which opened in Eagle this spring. Other neighborhood-type places found themselves flirting with the top 20. Hyde Park’s Parrilla Grill, for example, was No. 21 in bottle purchases for August with 477.
What will liquor numbers look like a few months from now? Or in fiscal year 2021? We’ll have to wait and see — and pray for the impact of the virus to dwindle.
Either way, expect Barbacoa to dominate Idaho’s capital city again.
But not the entire state. Overall in Idaho, Sun Valley Resort was No. 1 in fiscal year 2020 with $435,089 spent on 15,461 bottles. Coeur d’Alene Resort and Conference Center bought the most bottles, though: 21,990 for $418,293, giving it bragging rights for volume.
And let’s be honest: Alcohol by volume sounds pretty good nowadays.