High-end liquor prices to drop in North Carolina

RALEIGH — Consumers who are cooking in instead of dining out, buying generic, nursing the old car along and brewing their own coffee may soon be able to indulge themselves in one area. High-end liquor in North Carolina is about to get cheaper.

Starting Aug. 1, the cost of a half gallon of Grey Goose vodka will drop from $71.95 to $59.95. The cost of a fifth of Absolut vodka will drop from $21.95 to $19.95. And, for those who can afford it, a half gallon of Glenmorangie scotch is slated to sell for $89.95 instead of $99.95.

Why the price break?

Because the high-end booze has been taking a sales hit as consumers have increasingly turned to bargain-priced liquor. Distillers of the good stuff are chopping their prices to hang on to recession-weary customers.

Financial planner Pete Esposito, 39, forsook his usual Smirnoff at the Cameron Village ABC store in Raleigh this week and picked up a pint of Skol. The $2.95 price tag was a tradeoff for taste, he acknowledged.

"Between drinks," Esposito said, "you can polish your furniture with it."

But as prices go down and customers trade down, down goes the revenue, too, in a year when cash inflow already has tumbled.

Last year, liquor sales pumped more than $235 million into state and local treasuries. State officials already are predicting that overall sales this will be flat after years of steady growth. State alcohol regulators predict that mixed drink sales at bars and restaurants, which carry an additional tax, will be down by as much as $4 million this year, the first decline since 1977.

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