More liquor stores turning to credit-card surcharges

Both Arrow locations to add 2 percent fee Nov. 1, joining competitors

Liquor stores are increasingly turning to surcharges on customers who use credit cards to pay for their spirits.

On Nov. 1, both Arrow Wine & Spirits stores, in Kettering and in Washington Twp., will start charging a 2 percent surcharge to customers purchasing liquor with a credit card. No surcharge will be levied on beer and wine purchases. Several other liquor retailers in the Miami Valley already levy a surcharge of 2 to 3 percent on credit-card purchases of liquor.

“We’re one of the last stores to do this,” said Mif Frank, who oversees the Arrow store on Far Hills Avenue at Dorothy Lane.

Frank and other retailers say they are attempting to recoup the fees of 2 to 3 percent they have to pay to credit-card companies.

Under state regulations, liquor retailers make a 6 percent commission on each bottle of booze they sell at retail, meaning that credit card fees were taking about half of the liquor stores’ potential profit.

That 6 percent commission rate has remained unchanged since state liquor stores were privatized in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But the state strictly controls the pricing of liquor, mandating the end price to consumers.

Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control, said the agency does not track what proportion of its stores add a credit-card surcharges.

In a December 2014 newsletter to its liquor-store retailers, the division of liquor control suggested that store owners post a notice at checkout and the storefront regarding the surcharges, keep surcharges under 4 percent and to avoid adding the surcharge to debit or prepaid card transactions.

Fine Wine & True Spirits in the Sugarcreek Plaza in Sugarcreek Twp. charges a 2.5 percent surcharge for credit-card purchases of liquor only. “We didn’t want to, but we did not have much choice in this matter,” owners Vaishali and Jay Patel said. “We wanted to stay in business after paying credit card fees plus labor costs plus overhead expenses.”

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