PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Are Oregonians drinking more? According to the OLCC, as the state population rises, the thirst of Oregonians has only increased — along with the number of liquor stores to help meet increased demand.

The statewide increase in liquor store expansion was announced by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) in a release Thursday.

Additionally, the OLCC unanimously voted to renew 23 liquor store agent agreements. The Commission said the expansion will only improve Oregon’s small business market.

“The retail liquor store expansion effort was launched in 2015 with the objective of providing consumers greater convenience and improved product offerings,” the OLCC stated. “Expansion also generates small business opportunities for Oregonians to own and operate liquor stores while providing support to Oregon’s hospitality industry.”

Since 2015, the OLCC has helped open 36 new liquor stores in Oregon, increasing the state total to 281.

“In 2015 there was one liquor store for roughly every 16 thousand residents; today there is one liquor store for every 15 thousand residents,” the commission stated. “In 2015, Oregon had slightly over 4 million residents, today the state has more than 4.2 million residents.”

The OLCC said new liquor stores have opened for the first time in locations like Parkdale, Selma, and Terrebonne, Oregon. 

Larger regions such as Bend, Eugene, Medford, Portland and Salem have added 21 new locations amid the six-year expansion. 

Since the expansion effort began, the OLCC said the average sales per liquor store jumped 25% from $2.3 million to $2.9 million.

According to the agency, sales made from liquor stores to Oregon’s hospitality and entertainment industry make up approximately 25% of the state’s total liquor sales.

“Locally owned liquor stores are vital business partners for Oregon’s hospitality industry statewide,” Director of the OLCC Distilled Spirits Program Chris Mayton stated in the release. “Our expansion is mindful of the need for a strong and dependable business-to-business supply chain.”

As of the time of this article, the new stores added during the OLCC expansion have generated more than $287 million in revenue and produced nearly $109 million for state program funding. 

According to the commission, the expansion efforts have led to more than 165 new jobs and contributed $813 million in Oregon liquor store sales in 2021 — a record high for the state. 

“Our partnerships and contracts with all these private businesses that sell distilled spirits, are the key ingredient to us being able to meet demand and providing access to local and world class products,” said Steve Marks, OLCC Executive Director. “OLCC’s successful work to tie store expansion to population growth is mission driven.”

He continued, “The agency strives to balance sustained consumer satisfaction and the prosperity of the hospitality industry, with public safety and considerations along with our fiscal responsibility for ensuring predictable and stable revenue growth for state and local public services.”

Based on the state 2021-23 budget, Oregon liquor store sales are predicted to bring in $631 million dollars in funds to be “distributed to state, county, and city services for education, health, public safety and other public services.”