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Posted at 7:11 PM ET, 01/13/2011

If Virginia liquor stores were private ...

By Bob Hugman, Woodbridge

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has put forward a modified plan to the General Assembly to privatize the state liquor stores [Metro, Jan. 12]. The plan would privatize only the retail end of the business and would generate a one-time payment of $200 million, plus an annual revenue stream that is said to be somewhat higher than the amount now received.

Unfortunately, $200 million represents less than 1 percent of Virginia's annual expenditures and is insignificant when it comes to transportation needs. It is apparent that the promise to use the sale proceeds for transportation is just window dressing, and the real reason for doing this is to show that parts of state government can be privatized.

I want to see evidence that Virginians want the ABC stores to be privatized, and I want to see more coverage of the full impact of this. Do we want to triple the number of liquor outlets, including the sale of hard liquor in grocery stores? Do we want greater liquor consumption? Big-box liquor stores? Ubiquitous liquor ads targeting young adults? I think not.

By Bob Hugman, Woodbridge  | January 13, 2011; 7:11 PM ET
Categories:  Va. Politics, Virginia, economy, transportation  
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Comments

Illogical. Why should the state try to do what the private sector succesfully does in the majority of states? The data is very mixed and does not indicate a social policy advantage for controlled distribution. Makes no difference to me, I drive into DC and buy what I want from more price competitive private businesses.

Posted by: garyblum1 | January 13, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Bob (the letter writer Bob, not Governor Bob). Increased liquor consumption will dearly cost the state in health and safety and productivity, and there are stacks of scientific studies that back that up... higher consumption, greater harm. Most states have the good sense NOT to allow hard liquor to be widely available in grocery stores... But reps from certain big merchants and the alcohol industry, driven by greed, are pushing to erode alcohol policy across America-- thru the courts, ballot initiative, legislation... Give an inch they will be back to take a mile. (In the U.K., following steady deregulation, there's cheap booze from grocery store price wars and an alcohol epidemic. See the website Campaign for a Healthy Alcohol Marketplace.)

Virginia's ABC shops foster moderation. They are clean, willing to special order. They spare communities the ads and neon signs, and the clerks effectively deny the underage and inebriated. Perhaps stock 'em well with some Va. tourism brochures, but otherwise hands off the ABC stores. Just let ABC keep on delivering state revenue we know we can count on.

Posted by: anonymousid | January 14, 2011 12:59 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't the Governor have something else to do? Is this his most important issue?

Posted by: rabanito | January 14, 2011 7:52 AM | Report abuse

OK, then. As a Virginia resident, I want the government out of the liquor selling business. I want selection, competition and through that, better pricing, rather than a government monopoly where prices are fixed and it takes a year to get a common liquor on "special order". I was just in Kentucky where they make lots of alcohol and have a supermarket called "Liquor Barn" and there is no evidence of some drastic degradation in public health due to the reasonable availability of liquor. And the Campaign website is enlightening. Its purppose is "designed to stop efforts to de-regulate the sale and marketing of alcohol." So it's not working to make a healthy alcohol marketplace, it is designed to prevent deregulation and restrict alcohol sales. People are responsible for their own actions. We have plenty of laws on the books to regulated drunkenness and abuse of alcohol. Government's function is not to be a parent, nor a moral judge. I support the Governor in this issue.

Posted by: bluedog_IQT | January 14, 2011 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Virginia should deregulate, but it should make sure it gets the best possible price for taxpayers as it does. It only gets one chance to get this right, and it shouldn't be used as a reward for campaign contributors.

Posted by: 1toughlady | January 14, 2011 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Do we want to triple the number of liquor outlets, including the sale of hard liquor in grocery stores? Do we want greater liquor consumption? Big-box liquor stores? Ubiquitous liquor ads targeting young adults? I think not.
---

If you want to live in a nanny state, please move to MD, okay? I don't need the government telling me how to live my life.

Posted by: scoran | January 14, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I like the ABC store. they are not hard to find. but they aren't on every corner, or covered in obnoxious advertising. the current system acknowledges a public health angle to hard liquor sales. do we want crappy liquor stores on every corner everywhere? if you limit them by limiting the number of licenses that just invites corruption on who gets the license (see PG County, MD for how well that works). the governor is on the wrong track.

Posted by: malcolmyoung1 | January 14, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I agree with you malcolmyoung. The ABC stores are clean and available in most neighborhoods. If you want random liquor stores on every corner, drive over to Maryland or DC. Plus, it's a steady stream of revenue. Why fix something that isn't broken. Perhaps, the governor can focus on something else instead of the confederacy and the liquor stores. Surely, VA has other problems he can address.

Posted by: wmwilliams14 | January 14, 2011 10:43 AM | Report abuse

You people realize that in VA, if the government doesn't stock a certain kind of alcohol, you cannot get it in Virginia? I cannot find Slivovitz in any ABC store becaues the government chose not to carry it. Why is the government choosing which alcohol it will choose to sell or not? Alcohol sales should be handled by private entities.

That's nice and dandy that ABC stores are clean and don't have signs on the window. That's still not justification for there to be the government having a monopoly on alochol. If you want to live in a dry state, please move to one. If you want to live in a nanny state, please move to one, and leave Virginia.

Posted by: scoran | January 14, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

scoran, why don't you just move to a state that sells the liquor that you want in the liquor stores on every corner.

Posted by: wmwilliams14 | January 14, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

State control of hard liquor sales is an archaic leftover from Prohibition. It's downright primitive. Yelling about increased consumption is misleading -- zoning and advertising rules don't have to be discarded just because Richmond gives up its monopoly.

Is it the biggest issue VA faces right now? No. Should it happen? Yes.

Posted by: cgp01 | January 14, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with liquor sold in grocery stores or big box stores? You ask, do we want greater liquor consumption? Are you referring to the recovering alcoholic or the professional, responsible, accountable couple who wish to be introduced to new wines from Italy at a wine-pairing dinner?
What's wrong with targeting young people with liquor ad? If you're talking non-legal age folks, I'll give you that, but I know too many responsible 20 30 and 40 somethings to make such a broad brush comment(you did not define young adults). No, I'm not in the liquor business.

Posted by: greatroi | January 16, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Just what does "new wines from Italy at a wine-pairing dinner?" Have to do with the ABC stores ? Wine is available everywhere. ANd to those who think prices will go down need to get out more. For VA to continue getting anywhere near the current revenue and for the new merchants to make a profit the price will have to go up. This will drive people to other states lowering revenue once again. There is nothing wrong with the current system and VA makes more money off alchohol per capita than most other states. If you want an item that is unavailable the stores can order it !

Posted by: Falmouth1 | January 18, 2011 5:41 AM | Report abuse

I'm very much in favor of privitization. Currently, I drive into DC to buy all my liquor. As a Scotch afficianado, ABC stores are overpriced and have a terrible selection. Other high end liquors such as Grappa are aged rum cannot be found in the ABC stores.

VA also limits out of state shipping to 5 bottles (for liquor) and requires out of state stores to obtain a license, causing some outside shippers such as Binny's in Chicago to refuse shipping to a VA address. I have no problems with the stores being heavily regulated for cleanliness and ensure there are no sales to minors, but please allow for competition and a better selection.

Posted by: Narlington1 | January 19, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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