Crossing the line

Cheaper booze, cigarettes draw out-of-state residents to Moffat County

Advertisement

Ken Penman thinks nothing of traveling down from Baggs, Wyo. to purchase cigarettes at Craig stores.

The 40-mile drive has the potential to save big bucks for persistent smokers.

"If I don't come down here to buy cigarettes by the carton, it can cost a fortune," he said.

Penman illustrated his point: three packs of cigarettes, a newspaper and an energy drink, cost him more than $17 at a grocery store in Baggs. About 350 people live in the small Wyoming town north of Craig.

A carton of Marlboro cigarettes cost $23.49 at Craig's north-end Kum & Go. Penman has seen the same item at prices up to $30 in the Wyoming towns of Baggs and Rawlins.

Craig's convenience store clerks have long noticed an influx of Wyoming residents crossing state lines to buy smokes.

Sales Associate Susan Relaford of the south-end Kum & Go notes the increase, especially during the weekends. The Kum & Go is Craig's closest convenience store location to the Wyoming border.

"People come down here and shop in the grocery stores and then pick up cigarettes on their way home," she said. "One guy comes in here every Saturday and gets $100 worth of cigarettes. I think he picks them up for all his friends when he's down here."

Wyoming, unlike Colorado, has no state income tax.

Wyoming cigarette buyers pay a 4 percent sales tax on all tobacco products and a 39-cent federal excise tax per pack of cigarettes.

Kum & Go general manager Rick Arnold of the Yampa and Ninth Ave. store, estimated cigarettes sales made up about 18 percent of the store receipts.

The store's display area is the biggest of the town's three Kum & Go locations, he said.

"We're selling double than what we sold a few months ago," he said. "We're still determining what the actual percentage is."

Other businesses in Moffat County are reaping the benefits of out-of-state buyers.

Less than an hour's drive from the Utah state line, Dinosaur's two liquor stores do well from traveling customers.

Alcohol and beer are sold in state-owned stores in Utah. Beer there is often three percent alcohol, compared to nearly six percent alcohol found in Colorado stores.

That's one reason why Clint Morrill, co-owner of Terrace Liquor in Dinosaur thinks customers from Utah seek out his store.

"People can come to Colorado and get a six-pack of beer for the same price with more alcohol in it than in Utah," he said.

According to Morrill, Utah stores carry only domestic brews with six-percent alcohol content.

A six-pack of Corona costs $11.70 in Utah, he's heard, but sells for $7.95 at his Dinosaur store.

Morrill declined to say what percentage of his clientele traveled from Utah but it represented the "majority" of sales. He estimated about five percent of Dinosaur residents purchased alcohol at his store and Christie's Liquor. About 350 people live in Dinosaur.

Other customers, mostly recreationalists, swarm the shop during the busy summer months, he said.

But liquor laws vary by state, a point of contention for many Utah residents seeking alcohol in Colorado, Morrill said.

Drivers are allowed to leave Utah with 1.75 liters of alcohol, but may only enter the state with 96 ounces of alcohol, he said.

Utah residents buying alcohol in Colorado isn't illegal, a point the liquor store owner tries to inform customers about.

"People need to understand it's the quantity they buy," he said.

Buying 96 ounces of alcohol is equal to purchasing eight, twelve-ounce beers.

But the combination of liquor and gambling is a better representation of why people in Utah cross into Colorado for the goods, Morrill said.

Lotto tickets are sold at a couple locations in Dinosaur, but gambling is illegal in Utah.

"People come to do Lotto, that's the real draw," he said. "If it wasn't for Lotto, Dinosaur would be a totally different place."

Amy Hatten can be reached at 824-7031 or at ahatten@craigdailypress.com.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.