COVID-19 fuels record alcohol sales, complaints in in Iowa

Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 9:23 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The pandemic fueled record alcohol sales in Iowa during Fiscal Year 2021 and it also sparked a sharp rise in complaints and investigations for Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division.

The ABD’s annual report covering July 2020 through June 2021 details the agency’s changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and also the sales of alcohol statewide.


Iowans bought a record 415-million dollars worth of alcohol in FY 2021, an increase of nearly $50 million (13%) from FY 2020. Beer sales and wine sales also jumped 92% each from FY 2020, totaling 95.8 million gallons of ales and lagers and 6.3 million gallons reds, whites and roses.

Broken down by county, Linn County saw a 5% increase in gallons of alcohol sold. Dubuque saw a 13% increase, Johnson County sales rose 8% and Black Hawk County saw a 7% rise.

Combined those increased sales led to a jump in tax revenue for the state to $138.8 million in revenue, up 19% from FY 2020.

The report also details the favorite beverages of Iowans. In FY2021, whiskey surpassed vodka as the top-selling alcoholic beverage, accounting for 32.5% of all liquor sales in the state. Vodka dropped to the #2 slot while rum jumped into the third spot, surpassing cordials (flavored liquors).

The top-selling brand in Iowa was also a whiskey - Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey. Tito’s Vodka ranked second with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum in third.


The Pandemic impacted not only alcohol sales, but also compliance and regulations for the state’s liquor, wine and beer operations.

The ABD was used to help monitor and enforce complaints around Gov. Kim Reynolds COVID-19 mitigation orders for bars and restaurants during the pandemic, such as capacity limits and social distancing. The report notes the agency received 938 COVID-19 related complaints compared to 245 non-COVID related complaints in FY 2021. COVID-19 proclamation violations accounted for 37 of the 56 founded complaints in FY2021.

The Pandemic also had a financial impact, with license renewal requirements suspended for all of Fiscal Year 2021. The report notes that contributed to nearly $1.8 million of delayed revenue from licensing fees for the state.

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