The New Hampshire Liquor Commission is close to gaining approval to become a direct shipper of alcohol, with the House set to pass legislation that would send the long-held priority to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk.

Senate Bill 14 would permit the commission to register with the N.H. Secretary of State as a direct shipper of liquor and wine, allowing it to begin partnering with New Hampshire liquor manufacturers and build up an online sales business outside the Granite State.

The bill has had broad bipartisan support this year, sailing through the Senate with a unanimous vote earlier this year. On Thursday, it’s set for another easy vote; it’s positioned to pass without discussion on the House consent calendar after a 19-0 recommendation from the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee.

For Liquor Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica, the change would allow the commission to build on a decade-long expansion that has seen the agency increase sales to record levels. The state-run agency, whose profits directly benefit the general fund, currently operates 79 stores.

Testifying before a Senate Committee in January, Mollica said the bill would allow the commission to set up its direct shipment business as early as September 2021.

The commission is poised to start with just in-state sales — allowing New Hampshire residents to purchase from the commission’s warehouses and have the alcohol shipped to their homes. The state would then begin applying to get shipping licenses in other states, Mollica said.

New Hampshire already allows beer, wine and liquor manufacturers to ship their alcohol outside of the state, but currently manufacturers must partner with a private distributor. In testimony, some manufacturers said they would rather partner with the state agency than enter into a pricey arrangement with a third-party company.

Sales of liquor have exploded in New Hampshire during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since July 2020, the commission has pulled in $111 million in sales for the fiscal year, according to a revenue snapshot released by the state for the month of April. That’s $33.8 million more than the commission took in at the same point the year before.

This story originally appeared in the N.H. Bulletin.