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N.H. Liquor Stores, Swimming in Cash, Sign Long-Term Contract With Armored Car Company

Todd Bookman/NHPR

The New Hampshire Liquor Commission will pay an armored car company more than $3 million to collect cash from state-run retail liquor stores. The contract with Loomis Armored, which runs through 2024, also includes the placement of safes at each of the approximately 80 liquor stores statewide.

While consumers nationally are trending toward credit and debit cards for retail transactions, New Hampshire liquor outlets still do brisk business in greenbacks. That includes large all-cash transactions involving “bootleggers” who purchase large quantities of products, including Hennessy cognac, and then allegedly resell the spirits in other states.

Those cash transactions, and whether the Liquor Commission failed to adhere to financial reporting laws, were the subject of an inquiry by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office last year. After months of investigation, the AG’s office released a brief report late last year clearing the Liquor Commission of any wrongdoing.

While the contract with Loomis was signed by Liquor Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica in mid-November, it was never publicly announced. The Liquor Commission originally posted its interest in hiring an armored car company in August, but the agency’s website continues to say that “no award has been issued.” NHPR obtained a copy of the contract this week through a request of the Commission.

The contract also didn’t face scrutiny from the Executive Council, which generally has final say on deals involving state agencies valued at over $10,000. According to the Liquor Commission’s legal counsel, this contract doesn’t require approval from the five-member body because it was competitively bid and “within the exemption for materials, goods and services related to the Commission’s retail operations.”

Large chunks of the 56-page contract remain redacted, as it contains sensitive information related to the scheduling of cash pickups at state liquor outlets. The Liquor Commission has hired Loomis in the past on short term contracts during periods of traditionally high sales volume, including during the holidays and gift card promotional deals. Those are traditionally times when bootleggers flock to stores on the state’s southern body to take advantage of additional savings.

Some liquor store employees have voiced concerns about the large amount of cash flowing through retail stores. The new system of safes and armored car pick-ups eases some of that distress.

“It’s a good move, and a step in the right direction,” said Rich Gulla, president of SEIU 1984, which represents rank and file Liquor Commission employees. Gulla has feuded publicly with Mollica over the Commission's policy towards all-cash bulk sales.

According to the contract, safes will be installed in all state liquor stores by the beginning of March. Many stores already have money counting machines on sight, a result of the large volume of cash forked over by bootleggers. Cash volumes are so high that employees have used Monopoly money during training exercises to practice handling large stacks of bills.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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