Booze Seller Numbers Grew While Economy Didn't

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A funny thing happened while Washington slid into a recession, unemployment skyrocketed and and state tax revenue plunged:

More businesses applied for or renewed liquor licenses in the first six months of this year than in the years prior to the recession. While the numbers represent only a modest jump, it comes as a surprise to state officials who will take any good economic news where they can find it.

"Maybe it's people saying 'Hey I got laid off and I want to be my own boss,' " said Anne Radford, spokeswoman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board. "Maybe the recession gave some people the opportunity to do something new."

According to state data, in the first six month of 2009, the state received 1,529 liquor license applications. (This number includes renewals and new applications.) For the first six months of 2010, the number jumped by 152 to 1,682 statewide, a 9 percent rise.

The license numbers also rose between 2008 and 2009, during some of the worst months of the recession. In 2009 the state had 15,838 valid liquor licensees, up from 15, 444 in 2008. Both numbers are a steep increase of more than 3,500 from the 12,257 liquor license holders at the start of the decade.

The board did not yet have the numbers for Seattle specifcally but city officials here have said they have not seen any decline in permit applications for new bars.

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